By Victoria Hansen
Dusk descends as a strangely cool breeze brushes across the greens. A couple of stragglers take their parting shots, lingering in the fading light. Ted Kornya, a volunteer with the Charleston City Golf Course, rounds up water coolers from his cart. He too takes his time, with watchful eyes that suddenly grow wide.
“I’ve seen two before, but this is the first time I’ve seen three,” says Kornya. Wait, make that four! Kornya is seeing red foxes sprawl out on mounds of sand and in the grass along the fairways of the municipal golf course affectionately called “The Muni” on Maybank Highway. Kornya has played here for nearly 40 years and says the foxes are regulars, “but they’re really putting on a show tonight,” he says.
The bigger male stands tall, stretching for a photo op, licks his lips, and then curls up in a ball, clearly not impressed by the golf cart. He appears as if he’s posed on snow for National Geographic. A fluffy tailed youngster creeps up behind, then darts off, only to reappear pestering the snoozing senior. Attempts at play end with a swift swipe.
Carolina Tails Editor Dan Krosse recently had an encounter with two foxes after his ball landed in the middle of a fairway. “It was as if they were as surprised as I was that I actually hit a good shot,” Krosse says. Both appeared to be young foxes. One watched from behind the golf clubs. The other stopped just short of his ball.
What Does the Fox Say?
“Stealing golf balls would not surprise me,” says Jay Butfiloski with the Department of Natural resources. “To young foxes, they could look like quail or turkey eggs.” Even when they figure out they’re not, he says, foxes born this past spring are like puppies, playful and likely to chase a ball.
Butfiloski says seeing foxes in the daylight can be startling since they’re typically nocturnal. But before winter, it’s not at all unusual, especially on a golf course. Red foxes, he says, like open areas and the young ones are just so curious. “They’re still a little immature,” he says. “Like teenagers, they don’t yet know how to behave.” He says come winter, they’ll disappear until it’s night.
While they may be cute, especially when they play, Butfiloski reminds people red foxes are wild animals, best viewed from afar. They’re relatively small, with adults weighing between 10 to 12 pounds. They’re not a threat to humans unless provoked or protecting their young. He adds people should never try to pet or feed them and should try to discourage them from getting too close and becoming troublesome foxes that wind up trapped or killed.
Wild about Wildlife
Back at the pro shop, Shawn Cochran is closing up. He moved to Charleston from Austin, Texas this spring and says he scouted “The Muni” as a place to work. “Anyone who plays here walks away with that kind of ‘wow, that is wild’ and you’re ten minutes from downtown,” he says.
Cochran says he was attracted to the course’s challenge and rustic feel, the oaks, the Spanish moss and the wildlife. He just didn’t know “how wild” until he got here. “I’d never seen a fox on a golf course before and everyone just called them “ The Muni foxes” and said they’re always out late, showing off.”
He says some days they disappear, like when his girlfriend was in town for a recent visit and he wanted to do a little showing off. Cochran peeks out the window after making a final sale. “They’re nice late in the day, watching them play. They’re definitely better than a gator (which also roam The Muni), cuter anyway.”
Fun Facts About Foxes
- A group of foxesis called a skulk or leash.
- Foxeshave whiskers on their legs and face, which help them to navigate.
- Grey foxescan retract their claws like cats do.
- A male is called a ‘dog fox’ while a female is called a ‘vixen’
- Foxes’ pupils are vertical, similar to a cat, helping them to see well at night
- Foxes have excellent hearing and can reportedly hear a watch ticking 40-yards away.