You could say that Suzanne and Larry Farwell found themselves a bit outfoxed this week.
On Wednesday morning, they discovered a rather large and unexpected visitor perched on the birdbath at their home in the foothills above Santa Barbara.
Larry was quick enough to snap a photo of the California gray fox quenching his thirst at about 10 a.m.
The couple have lived in the rural Trout Club neighborhood off Old San Marcos Road for more than 35 years, and are used to seeing lots of wildlife.
"We live … far enough away from town that we get lots of animal visitors — raccoons, bobcats, coyotes, garter snakes and foxes," Suzanne said. "The foxes are particularly fond of us because they are fruit-eating beasts, and we have quite a few fruit trees.
"If you can believe it, we have seen them climb into our apricot trees in the summer, and not only gorge themselves, but throw down apricots to their little ones on the ground!
"At the moment they are appreciating the persimmons in the backyard."
At the end of a very dry rain season, marked by only about half of normal precipitation, water is scarce right now, "so the bird bath in the photo offers a welcome water source," Suzanne said.
California gray foxes are omnivores, and primarily eat rabbits and rodents, in addition to insects and fruits.
Less common than the red fox, the gray fox is somewhat unique in its ability to climb trees — both to seek out food and to avoid predators such as domestic dogs and coyotes.
They range in length from 30 to 44 inches, and weigh between 8 and 15 pounds.
They are mostly nocturnal, but will sometimes be seen in the early morning and early evening.