SO VERY VULPINE: It's hard to find a more mythic small mammal than the fox, an animal that has long starred in legends and lore and fables and fairytales. So present is the fox in our children's storybooks and in our own memory of tales long ago told that news of a present-day sighting can sometimes throw us for a moment. But in a good and necessary way: Topical tales of the fox serve to remind us that these animals are not merely cute and cuddly (or crafty or wise or whatever anthropomorphic qualities humans have assigned to the diminutive, bushy-tailed beasties throughout the ages) -- they're very much a part of the story of our modern wildlife and wild world, no whimsical watercolor illustrations required. Look to one of the big stories of January, the sighting of Sierra Nevada Red Fox in Yosemite National Park. This animal hadn't been seen "in nearly a century" and is "one of the rarest mammals in North America." Good and powerful news, but we can take our foxly fascinations even further, at the Santa Barbara Zoo, which will host "Fox Awareness Day" on Sunday, Feb. 15.
FREE WITH ZOO ADMISSION: Some "informal activities" will introduce visitors to the life and ways of the island fox, which is "recovering well from near extinction just ten years ago." The animal park is not far from the Channel Islands -- well, there's some crossing of the Pacific Ocean involved, of course -- and it has taken an active stance in the Channel Island fox's preservation and, yes, story. For while our storybooks are full of fictional foxes, the foxes here, in our real world, deserve to have their stories told, too. And "near extinction" is a plotline no one wants to see. Get to know more about the fox, and zoo's work -- it was the "first to breed foxes on the mainland" -- during the Feb. 15 info-packed day.