9 May 2021

NOTE: Like all animals, red foxes have a well-formed and complex language. However, to the human ear – and the computer keyboard – it just seems to consist of a series of high-pitched screams and “yips.” Because of our inadequacies that prevent me from giving a true rendition of the following conversation , I’ve written out in English, (the best I can do) the gist of it.



   “Hey, Mom,” said the young red fox, “I heard some Humans talking…”

  “ Kit! I’ve told you a dozen times not to eavesdrop.”

   “I wasn’t.”


   “Well, okay Mom. I was listening in. But they were sitting by their swimming pool, and I was wandering in the woods just a little ways away. I couldn’t help overhearing.”

   “You could have kept walking.”

   “Okay, you’re right, Mom. But let me tell you what I heard. You remember that big storm night before last? Well, it knocked out all the electricity in the area, and they’ve been without lights and wi-fi ever since. One said that they were ‘living like animals.’ What did he mean?”

   Mama Fox had to think about that a minute. “Well, technically, they are living like animals, because they are animals.”

   “No, Mom, I’m talking about Humans.”

   “Well, Kit, Humans are – scientifically speaking – animals – genus Homo, just as we are genus Vulpes.”

   “I’ve heard they don’t like to be called ‘homos’.”

   “No, that’s different; that’s an ignorant and mean-spirited thing that some people say.  What I mean is - as a species - they are Homo sapiens – though ‘sapiens’ seems a bit of a stretch. Similarly, we are Vulpes fulva.”

   Kit interrupted. “Mom, why do we call ourselves Vulpes fulva?”

   “Well, Kit; actually, we don’t. Humans use Latin names (Latin is another Human language) for their convenience, to try to classify all us animals – and plants, too. ‘Fulva’ is our color (sort of brownish-orange), and ‘Vulpes’ just means fox. Actually, come to think of it, saying ‘Vulpes’ means ‘fox’ doesn’t really say anything to us. Both are just words in Human talk. We call ourselves (__).[1]

   Kit interrupted, again. “Mom, how do you know this stuff? You’re a vixen!”

   “Watch your language, young fox. Remember, I’m your mother.”

   “But, Mom, it’s just a Human word – it means ‘she-fox.’ You are a fox – well, in Human talk you are - and a ‘she,’ so…”

   “Okay, but don’t use it again. It doesn’t sound nice.”

   Mama looked like she was ready to move on to other things. Kit tried to pull her back. “But what about the ‘living like animals’ thing?”

   “Well, I suppose they meant that it’s harder for them when they can’t do the things they’re used to doing. They feel diminished and underprivileged, like they think other animals are.”

   “Like us?”

   “Yes, like us, and like every other animal not of the genus Homo. The funny thing is that I was just reading that…”

   “Wait, wait! You were reading? Like, in Human?”

   “Well, I meant to say…”

   “How did you hold the book?”

   “All right, smartie, stop it! I mis-spoke. I didn’t read it, but I was listening to his podcast…”


   “Yes, and it was very interesting. He said that Humans once lived like all us other animals, and he thought they were probably a lot happier when they did.[2] According to him, Humans once lived pretty much like we do. They were omnivorous – it means…”

   “I know, Mom! It’s a Human word that means we eat all kinds of stuff – mice, grasshoppers (ugh!), grass, vegetables, berries, grain…”

   “Exactly. They were hunter-gatherers, meaning sometimes they went out to kill other animals to eat – and (unlike us) for their fur or tough hides, because Homos didn’t come ready-equipped with all-weather skin – and sometimes they gathered plants, insects, and such. They could usually find one or more of the various possibilities, and so had a good, healthy diet all year round.”

   “So, why were they happier?”

   “Well, like with us, sometimes food is harder to get than at other times, but usually it was no problem for any of us. Humans only had to hunt a couple times a week, and gathering only took a few hours of their day. The rest of the time they were free to spend time together, play, meditate – whatever, they wanted to do. Just like us.

   “There was another thing that I didn’t quite understand – a Human thing, apparently. It seems that nowadays, when Humans get together, the females have to stay inside and do things, while the males can be outdoors. Apparently, this upsets the females, and makes for tension and unhappiness. When Humans lived more like us, everything was done in one place, and the sexes didn’t have to be separated.”

   “So, what changed?” asked Kit.

   “At some point, Humans thought they could make their life even easier, by having all their food in one place, so they didn’t have to be out hunting and gathering, and didn’t have to be worried about lean seasons. They learned how to grow large areas of plants in one place, and also took other animals into captivity to raise for meat and other purposes.”

   “How did they learn to do that?”

   “I don’t know. Neither did the man who was explaining this.”

   Kit thought about that. “Well, however they did it, it seems like that would have made them happy.”

   “That would be logical, wouldn’t it? But it didn’t. They found out that growing crops and keeping animals wasn’t easy, and it took a tremendous amount of time. Instead of a few hours a day hunting and gathering, they found that they were working almost around the clock to make sure that their crops grew and their animals lived and produced for them. Sometimes they found they had much more food than they needed, but often they found that planted crops didn’t stand up to periods of drought or too much rainfall, like native plants do. They found that captive animals had to be cared for all the time, or they’d die, not produce, or produce too much. In bad times, Humans couldn’t up and leave to find other food, because they had to stay and try to salvage what they had.”

   “So, that’s why they weren’t as happy as before?”

   “Yes, but it got worse. In the growing of their own food, and the keeping of slave animals, they destroyed much of what they had originally hunted and gathered. They were more and more dependent on their home base – and, of course, it made it harder for all us other kinds of animals, too.

   "Some Humans got restless and didn’t want to spend all their time farming. But they found that the ones who continued to grow things didn’t want to just give away their harvest. They wanted something in return. The non-farmers didn’t have anything to give, so they thought about what they could make to trade for food. There wasn’t anything that anybody really needed, but they eventually thought of all kinds of things they could use to trade for food.”

   “Like wi-fi?”

   “Well, that was probably much later - among all the other stuff they were making that nobody needed - but yes: wi-fi. The things they were making seemed to take even more of their time than farming did, and took them farther and farther away from the life – like ours – that they had once lived. They didn’t have time for family or fun; they just had to keep working.”

   Kit pondered that a few moments. “So, despite everything they’ve done that has made them unhappy, they don’t want to go back to the happy times – when they ‘lived like animals?’”

   “Apparently not, but  - I ask you - what’s not to like? I know some of the things Humans have done have made it hard for the original animals and plants we used to know and depend on. Some have completely disappeared. But us - because we are omnivorous and also flexible and crafty - we (__)1 have done just fine. We usually have plenty to eat; we have time to relax and play, or just sit in the sun. When it’s cold, we have our dens to retreat to, where the temperature is always a constant 55 degrees.”

   “That’s sounds cold,” opined Kit.

   Mama rubbed his furry head. “That’s why we have fur coats. Now, is there anything we don’t have?”

   “I don’t have wi-fi,” said Kit.

   “Do you know what wi-fi is?”

   “Not really.”

   “Neither do I.”

   Mama rose and stretched. “I’m getting stiff. Let’s wander around a bit before the sun goes down.”

   Kit got up beside her. “Okay, Mom. But there’s one thing I don’t understand.”

   “What’s that, Kit?”

   “What’s a podcast?”

Kit, living like an animal

What’s not to like?


[1] A Fox Language word for “fox;” untranslatable into Human.

[2] Harari, Y. N. 2015. Sapiens, a brief history of Humankind. New York, New York: Harper Collins Publishers.




Wildlife and Conservation

 To the Writing It Down Homepage

Leave a Comment:

 © Sanford Wilbur 2024