They might not be as popular as the garden gnome, but red foxes are a growing fixture in suburban yards.
For the last few days, a mother and her six kits have been seen basking in the afternoon sun in front of one Arlington Heights home.
Tom Beissel, regional wildlife biologist for the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, said it's an increasingly common sight as wildlife continue to adapt to less-than-wild environments.
"Red foxes are a feature of the landscape now," Beissel said, also recalling the time one ran in front of his car on Lake Shore Drive. "They've demonstrated the ability to adapt to urban situations really well."
On Friday, Arlington Heights resident Debra Fisher came upon the foxes while walking her golden retriever near Hersey High School. They'd burrowed a den near some hedges.
"They were like little puppies hopping and jumping on each other," she said. "The mom was just keeping an eye out."
Not at all camera shy, the foxes allowed her to get to within feet -- typical of the species when foxes are nesting and denning, Beissel said.
"They're fairly gregarious and not really aggressive," he said.
He estimated the kits are four to five weeks old and said the mother will likely soon move them to an area with a stable food source once they've matured some. Red foxes, which feed on insects, plants and small mammals, grow to about three feet in length and seven to 14 pounds.
Fisher recounted frequent fox sightings over the past three years, but usually at dusk or dawn.
"I'm not concerned for myself but for people with little kids and little dogs," she said.
Beissel said the statewide population of red foxes is only slightly up, but that urban areas are seeing a more significant increase.
He reiterated that foxes as a rule don't cause conflict.
"We can live very compatibly with a lot of wildlife species previously thought to live only in wild spaces," Beissel said.
For more information, go to web.extension.uiuc.edu/wildlife.