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27.1.12

Cunning Little Vixen at the Kennedy Center


Monument of Bystrouška, from Janáček's The Cunning Little Vixen, in Hukvaldy, the composer's hometown
Sharp-Ears, otherwise known as the Cunning Little Vixen, has taken up residence with her mate at the Kennedy Center. Not, unfortunately, because Washington National Opera is staging Janáček's brilliant, loveable opera of that title (last produced there in 1993), but because an actual pair of foxes has set up house somewhere near the north end of the Kennedy Center in the last few weeks. On Saturday night, on my walk from the Terrace Theater toward Virginia Avenue, the female of the pair was running about in the gardens around the statue of Don Quixote. She came directly toward me, apparently looking for the right time to cross the street and head down into the man-made canyon where I-66 joins with the Whitehurst Freeway in front of the Kennedy Center. There was a brief moment of panic, between determining that the animal was not a stray dog and watching her cross the street, when it was very clear that the fox had no fear about coming right up to me.

On most nights a security guard is standing in or near the little station at the corner of F and 25th Streets NW. When I pointed out the vixen to the man there on Saturday night, he told me about the other fox, a much larger male, who has also been spotted in the area. He reported having had a close run-in with the male fox, which came up onto the steps and terrace around the north end of the Kennedy Center. Some families with teenagers and younger children came dangerously close to the fox, who was not at all afraid of humans, reportedly almost causing the guard's lieutenant, who carries a sidearm, to take aim at the fox and shoot. Fortunately, the fox decided to move along on its own. The guard also reported that Animal Control had been called to the Kennedy Center to assess the situation, but that the foxes -- true to their reputation in folklore -- were too sly to be seen, let alone get caught. D.C. Animal Control would not confirm any complaints having been received about foxes near the Kennedy Center.

Urban foxes are posing a problem in cities in many countries, including right here in Washington, because the animals flourish -- and grow to sizes larger than their counterparts in the wild -- on left-over scraps from humans and have no predators or dangers other than being hit by cars. Reached for comment this week, officials at the Kennedy Center were surprised to learn of the foxes, as there had been no complaints from patrons yet about the animals. John Dow, Vice President of Press, said that no one in patron services and facilities at the Kennedy Center had seen a fox. "We are inspecting the grounds for any signs of a fox den," Dow stated, joking that he would be "paying closer attention" when arriving at work in the morning.

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