Red Fox Kits At Play

Ok, here it is only the middle of January and I’ve already had my fill of frigid temperatures, snow and inversions.  This post is my temporary escape from it all – to spring green, warm temperatures and cute animal babies.

In May of 2010 I found a den of Red Fox Kits at Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge.  The den was only about 15′ from the road edge and I never left my pickup or the road while photographing the youngsters.  Some of the images here (there are lots of them) have technical issues of composition and light angle but hey, rambunctious fox kits are a challenge to photograph.  At least that’s my excuse…

The photography was frenetic.  I used three different cameras and lenses (500mm with and without tc, 100-400 zoom and 17-85 zoom).  I missed a lot of interesting shots while switching gear – fun and frustrating at the same time.

I’m leaving out camera exif data this time – just too much work and I don’t have the time this morning.  Sorry Dwynn…


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At first there was a single kit out of the den.



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Then there were two.



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And finally, four – you can see the top of the head of the fourth one as it emerges from the den.  This is the only shot I kept that included all four kits.  These youngsters aren’t as red as one might expect because they were covered in gray dust from playing in the dirt and crawling through the den.  I like the almost lynx-like appearance of the kit at the back.



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They were very curious about my big red pickup (I had a bright red Toyota at the time) and the clicking sounds coming from the two strange creatures inside.



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One of them was particularly playful with us, sometimes play-charging my pickup…



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and other times stalking it.



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They would sometimes just sit and watch us.



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More often than not they had grass, or a stick or something in their mouths from their curious play.



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Even when taking a brief rest they were usually mouthing something.  Anyone who has lived with a puppy is all too familiar with the behavior.



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They would occasionally hide in the grasses and then pop up for a look.



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But mostly they romped with each other…



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and wrestled…




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and wrestled some more.



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They were so entertaining I could have watched them play for hours but what a challenge it was to photograph the very fast action with the angle of light I had to deal with.

Sadly, I suspect these youngsters didn’t have much of a future.  It’s my understanding that National Wildlife Refuges practice predator control, Bear River included.  I never found these kits again.


22 comments to Red Fox Kits At Play

  • I love these Ron, and thank you for sharing them. My experience as having once been a Montessori guide, plus my mother being a well respected Montessori consultant here, is that children should be exposed to environmental concerns as soon as possible. The longer one waits to expose children to these environmental truths, the more vulnerable they become to risking the environment when they become adults and faced with the meat-eating market realities that have become profitable businesses at the expense of our environment. Most children will eat meat, and you may not open this Pandora’s box too soon, as this is a very personal decision and I will not go there. However, you may well bring up the social concern of killing top predators ASAP. I don’t think this can really wait, not even for the youngest of children.

    • I can tell you’ve thought long and hard about the timing of such revelations to children, Maria. I’m glad I no longer have to make those decisions regarding my own grown daughter.

  • Yet another lovely series. Some years back when we lived in a rural community we were lucky enough to see sights like this from time to time. Rarely on a repeat basis though. Foxes are considered vermin here, and are exterminated willy-nilly. Which I have always felt was sad and bad. Humans introduced foxes to Australia (someone thought they could hunt them here as they did in England!!!!). Like rabbits they thrived here, and we have been making them pay for it ever since. Bah humbug.

  • Nicole

    THe series is fantastic. What wonderful, playful creatures. I am so sad to hear about their possible demise at the hands of humans… we are responsibly for so much destruction and death. I often skip over the “bad” when reading the captions to the smaller of my two. I hesitate to do that because I feel like I want them to understand and know that bad things do happen and it is up to them to try to change things for the better when they are “all growed up”. Bah.

    • Nicole, I’ll bet it IS a difficult decision to know when is best to open up about this kind of thing to your young children. I wish you well with it.

  • These are AMAZING shots… Thank you so very much for sharing!! You’re such a talent.

    I’m mystified, I’m sorry. They EXTERMINATE these animals? We have MANY a migratory, as well as year-round bird, sanctuary here. Many endangered birds are present. I frequent them often…. And the rangers don’t lay a hair on the heads of the bobcat and other predators that are born there — thank goodness, because there are plenty of hunters that do so illegally, out-of-season. I’m sadly mystified, so very disappointed.

    • Christina, I’m no authority on what is done for predator control on wildlife refuges (they try to keep it low-key and out of the public’s eye) but I do know that both non-lethal and lethal methods have been used for many years. The lethal variety involves shooting, trapping and chemical means although I believe that toxic chemicals like strychnine have now been largely banned for such use on National Wildlife Refuges. I’m not sure of the status of poison gas, which was used on denning predators like foxes.

      Perhaps other’s are more knowledgeable on the subject and might share here?

  • Tana Hunter

    I love these pics, they are a happy respite from our freezer. But the reality of their probable extermination is so sad. Why do they think it is necessary to control predators on a wildlife refuge???
    Shouldn’t nature take its course? Wildlife Services in a misnomer. Wildlife exterminators would be more accurate.

    • Tana, I suspect their rationale is that Bear River is a “Migratory Bird Refuge”, so birds are their primary focus. Predators like foxes, skunks, weasels, etc, eat a lot of birds and eggs. So they “control” predators. I’ve always had trouble with that line of reasoning too – especially since hunters are allowed to take birds on a “refuge”, so why shouldn’t natural predators?

  • Chris

    Great series Ron! Any sight of momma getting concerned over the big red truck? Oh, as to your lens problem, quickly fixed with 2 more bodies…….. 🙂

  • What a delightful set of photos! That was a very lucky encounter for you and you did a great job of recording it. The only downer is that you never saw them again. But at least you got to observe and record something many, perhaps most, of us will never see.

    The EXIF apology is absolutely unnecessary, Ron. I never meant to suggest you should another work step to your already excellent blog. I just thought you were perhaps using a plugin (like I use) that adds EXIF data automatically and might have accidentally turned it off.

  • Leisa Duncan

    Wonderful!! What is it exactly that makes baby anything so endearing (well, at least to me)? What a joy to be able to see. Do you think they enjoyed watching you as well, despite the fact that you only clicked away? And I shall believe that they all lived happily ever after, just because.

    • I don’t know if they “enjoyed” my presence, Leisa but it sure didn’t bother them either. They seemed completely comfortable with me baing so close but then they must have been quite acclimated to vehicles with the road so close to the den.

  • Thank you Ron for the joyfulness of Springtime and the kits playful antics .It warmed my heart and frost bitten hide in one fell swoop !

  • Charlotte Norton

    Thanks for sharing these wonderful photos. Something I might never get to see if it were not for your sharing your amazing talent as a photographer. I was really sad to hear that they may not have made it.