Sleek, red and furry, he’s the celebrity to know in Washington, D.C. these days. He’s certainly more interesting than just about any congressional member you can name. They call him the “Capitol Hill Fox,” and he’s quite the sensation.
For weeks now he’s been gliding in and out of the public eye, ever conscious that he’s a media starchild. One day he can be seen relaxing on the Capitol’s West Lawn, and on another he demonstrates his squirrel hunting prowess for all to behold. He knows how to play an audience.
As Roll Call’s gossip blog “Heard on the Hill” put it,”[V]irtually everyone and their grandmother here in D.C. is now on the lookout for the Capitol Hill Fox.”
After the Fox: Tracking His Movements
CHF, as those “in the know” refer to him, first appeared on the scene back in in June 2013. A former Hill staffer saw him digging in the bushes near the Lincoln Memorial. Since then, CHF has popped up all over the National Mall:
- June 2013: Seen visiting the World War II Memorial.
- June-November 2013: No recorded sightings. Perhaps he was vacationing in Maui? We’ll never know. On the other hand, he could well be the somewhat lesser celebrated “Shutdown Fox” who invaded the White House garden in October while National Park Service workers were furloughed.
- Mid-December 2013: A Hill staffer sees CHF on the National Mall.
- Dec. 16, 2013: CHF seen crossing Constitution Avenue between the Washington Monument and the Ellipse.
- Dec. 30, 2013: Two sightings this evening. Once near the Capitol Visitor Center and another “bounding across the sidewalk.”
- Jan. 4, 2014: CHF seen at the FDR Memorial.
- Jan. 6, 2014: CHF observed by someone walking his dog. He calls CHF “very calm, cool, collected.”
- Jan 12, 2014: CHF displays his hunting prowess, killing a squirrel in front of a gaggle of tourists. Later that evening, he’s seen again near the Botanical Gardens.
- Jan. 14, 2014: A banner day with three sightings. First around the guard station near the Senate, later seen by a jogger, and finally observing marking territory on the Capitol lawn.
- Jan. 16, 2014: Two sightings. CHF observed in front of a Safeway supermarket. On the same day, CHF posted his own photo to his Twitter account, noting that he was on his way to enjoy coffee with Justice Scalia.
- Jan. 17, 2014: Does CHF have a lady love? A tipster saw two foxes near the Lincoln Memorial.
- Jan 28, 2014: The most recent CHF sighting pegs him around the Capitol shortly before the State of the Union address.
Interested in keeping up with CHF sightings? There’s a Google map tracking his whereabouts here.
Foxes, Foxes Everywhere
As it turns out, there are likely a number of foxes living the good life in the District of Columbia. The one seen around the National Mall is probably not the same one hanging around the Capitol, according to the National Park Service.
“We seldom have issues with foxes at National Mall and Memorial Parks,” National Park Service park ranger Mary Willeford Bair told DCist. ”The only one we had problems with during the past seven years of my being in D.C. was one that had been fed by people. The animal had lost fear of people and was even begging for food. It is illegal to feed animals in a national park.”
With tongue firmly in cheek, Congressman Kurt Schrader of Oregon recommends people keep their distance from CHF.
“I’d advise my colleagues and visitors to the Capitol grounds to avoid going near or touching the fox if they spot it, as it could have rabies,” Schrader, who’s a veterinarian, told the Washington Post. “On second thought, it’s possible that it may have bitten some of my colleagues. That explains a lot.” Yes, it does. It really does.
“AOC staff has spotted the fox around the Capitol over the past year, but its visibility has increased this winter,” she said. “The Capitol’s grounds are a very supportive environment for wildlife.” She added that the fox seems to be helping to keep the squirrel population in check.
The D.C. Department of Health learned about the fox on the news. It will send Animal Control out to try to trap him so they can examine him. According to DOH spokesperson Najma Roberts, they merely want to confirm it’s a healthy fox. Assuming it is, she told the Huffington Post, the “ultimate goal is not to harm the animal. Ultimately, we hope to release the animal.”
There — we did this entire story without once asking “What Does the Fox Say?” Even if we did ask, CHF would probably refer us to his Twitter account anyway.
Photo credit: Thinkstock