The Big Picture

Frolicking foxes

About two weeks ago, my wife and I drove past a bunch of foxes walking around the cemetery next to the Pembroke (Mass.) Friends Meetinghouse. I pass it almost every day and have never seen them before. I knew we had gone by a great photo opportunity. The Meetinghouse, which was built in 1706, sits at a busy intersection. But it’s an ideal location if you’re a fox, I suppose. There are thick woods adjacent and a feed store a block away that sells live chickens. My wife, who is also a photographer, and I decided to return with our 300 mm and 400 mm lenses. We had never seen such a large group of foxes together like this. After that first day, we rarely saw them. Then on one evening, we saw the mother fox run through the woods towards the house. By this time, it was close to 7 p.m., and the warm sunlight bathed the foxes in a golden glow. It was that moment that we waited so long for. We both quietly walked the perimeter, hugging a rock wall like hunters, except armed with cameras. We split up, taking different sides. All the foxes were out now. It was a perfect moment. The cubs played and frolicked on the lawn, against the house, and around the headstones. They seemed impervious to us being there. We stayed until the mother took off with one of the cubs into the woods. We looked at each other and felt we had witnessed something extraordinary. From that day, we haven’t seen them since.--By John Tlumacki/Globe Staff photographer
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Two fox cubs played around an old headstone at the cemetery at the Pembroke Friends Meetinghouse, where they have a den underneath the house. (John Tlumacki/Globe Staff)
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A mother fox walked through the lawn of the meetinghouse. (Debee Tlumacki for The Boston Globe)
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Two fox cubs played near the entrance to their den. The cubs are now estimated to be 8 to 10 weeks old. (Debee Tlumacki for The Boston Globe)
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A mother fox (right) walked from her six cubs as they played in the cemetery. Pembroke animal control officer William Hart estimates the cubs to be between 8 and 10 weeks old. “It’s the biggest bunch I’ve seen under there,” Hart said. The foxes have been keeping a den under the house for the past 15 years, Hart said. (John Tlumacki/Globe Staff)
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The mother fox returned from a hunt with a freshly killed chicken that she carried to the den. (John Tlumacki/Globe Staff)
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Fox cubs played in the cemetery. The foxes will probably remain at the den until October. Before winter, Hart expects that half of the cubs might die from being hit by a car or from attacks by hawks or eagles. “I went up there and stayed for over two hours one day watching them. They are cute,” Hart said. (Debee Tlumacki for The Boston Globe)
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As the sun set, fox cubs waited for their mother at the entrance to their den in the corner under the meetinghouse. The house was built in 1706. (John Tlumacki/Globe Staff)
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A fox cub playfully jumped over another cub. (John Tlumacki/Globe Staff)
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Fox cubs played in the cemetery as the mother fox (foreground) kept an eye on them. (John Tlumacki/Globe Staff)
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A mother and one of her cubs waited at the cemetery. (John Tlumacki/Globe Staff)
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People stood in a restaurant parking lot to observe the foxes from across Washington Street. (John Tlumacki/Globe Staff)
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Pembroke Animal Control Officer William Hart hopes that people enjoy watching the foxes from a distance and is concerned that the cubs might run onto the busy street if people get to close to them. (Debee Tlumacki for The Boston Globe)
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One of six fox cubs sat in the cemetery. (Debee Tlumacki for The Boston Globe)
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A fox walked in front of the meetinghouse. It is one of the oldest Quaker meetinghouses in the United States. (Debee Tlumacki for The Boston Globe)
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The mother fox got her face licked by one of her cubs on the lawn of the meetinghouse. (Debee Tlumacki for The Boston Globe)
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