The choir of crickets and voices of the katydids receded to a soft peeping and died away. The dark shadows lightened as the sun slowly spread its first rays across the sky. In the woods, the birds stirred and raised their voices, enchanting the Earth. Morning had come.
Vixen paused briefly outside her den. Inside, her six growing pups would soon awaken, hungry and rambunctious. At birth, they had weighed a mere 4 ounces (110 g) and were fed only by her milk. Now, at five weeks, they were weaned and readily devoured any wild game she or her mate brought to them.
Vixen was a quick, skillful hunter, but last night’s hunt hadn’t been overly successful. Although Vixen and her mate hunted some throughout the day, most of their hunting was done at night.
Perhaps today she could catch a rabbit. Vixen trotted along with her ears alert for any possible sound of game and her nose straining to catch scent of a trail. Vixen depended heavily on her sense of hearing and keen nose to bring food to her pups. Her ears were sharp enough to hear a mouse squeak over 100 feet (30 m) away.
Suddenly Vixen paused. Her sharp eyes had spotted a bright red object. Stealthily, she crept forward, pounced, and caught the unsuspecting cardinal. Vixen devoured the bird, licked herself clean, and continued her hunt.
An hour later, she neared her den, camouflaged in tall weeds. The den had several entrances and was seventy-five feet (23 m) long. She paused at one of the entrances, a rabbit dangling from her mouth. Sometimes she brought live mice for her pups. The pups would utter ferocious puppy growls as they pounced upon them. Killing mice at a young age helped them develop their hunting skills.
Vixen dropped the rabbit and summoned her pups. She lay down and watched with satisfaction as all six of them scrambled from the den and, growling, combated for their share.
Her ears and nose were alert for any signs of danger. A shadow darkening the sun or the scent of an enemy could mean danger for her pups. Vixen was a good mother, and, so far, all her pups had survived.
The pups finished their meal and began to chase each other. Occasionally, they tumbled over Vixen, pouncing on her tail and biting it with their sharp teeth. Vixen bore this very patiently, except when the teeth were too sharp. Then she nipped the offending pup and sent him yipping.
Finally, Vixen arose and nudged her pups toward their den, nipping at the protesting ones. When all were safe inside, she slunk away. Perhaps she could find her mate.
The night breeze whispered secrets through the dewy grasses. Millions of stars twinkled like diamonds in the night sky, and the Moon beamed upon the hushed earth. Vixen glided beside her mate, her long tail flowing, her sharp ears pointed. The pair paused as they entered the clearing. Vixen touched noses with her mate and uttered a soft yipping sound. He replied with a series of short yaps.
The night was young. Would it be fruitful? Together, they turned and followed the moon’s path.