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Sleeping Fox | by Les Piccolo
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Sleeping Fox

I don't usually write stories to go along with my pictures but in this case the story is worth telling. Every winter in March for the past 30 years myself and three of my friends spend 4 or 5 days fishing and winter camping in Lake Superior Provincial Park. These days my friends fish and I look for photo opportunities. Last week was our annual trip. Temperatures were below normal for this time of year being below minus 20 C every night with a strong north wind every day. On the second day I headed off by myself to find something worth photographing. I traveled down a narrow bay through a narrows that opened up into a series of small ponds. I walked to the second small pond and decided to stop and take a break. I drag a small sleigh with my photo equipment and a small chair to rest on. I started to pull the bungy cords off the sleigh when I caught a movement out of the corner of my eye. Approaching me was this small fox. He walked over to me and sat down next to the sleigh. I was a little dumbfounded as I have rarely had wild animals approach me. Usually it’s the other way around and ends with them trying to get away as fast as possible. He (male Fox) came over to the sleigh and picked up the bungy cord I had just detached from the sleigh and carried it up the bank of the pond a short way and sniffed it over before deciding it was not good to eat. He then came back and started tugging on my jacket which was still attached to the sleigh. He soon gave up on that and after giving the entire sleigh a good inspection decided there was nothing worth the effort on the sleigh so he went up the bank of the pond to the edge of the bush and laid down about 15 ft away from me. For the next while I photographed and observed him as he rested in the sun.

After about an hour I decided to move on and packed up the sleigh to head back to the campsite. I left with the fox still on the bank of the pond resting and he lifted his head and watched me leave on my trail in. When I traveled about 100 meters across the pond I stopped and turned around and saw that the fox was following me about 50 meters behind. I reached the other side of the pond and stopped and waited for the fox to catch up which he did and he promptly tried to tug my jacket off the sleigh. I headed off again and the fox veered off into the bush. I got out onto the big lake following my trail in, and traveled a few hundred yards across a large bay and came to the opposite end of an island we were camped on. I turned around and there was the fox again following on my trail. The fox then cut up into the bush of the island and we traveled together, me on the lake and him just inside the bush of the island as I could see him walking along keeping pace with me. I came around the corner of the island where our campsite was and there was the fox coming out of the bush just in front of our campsite. The fox inspected the campsite while I tried to stay ahead of him, hiding anything that he could cause trouble with like our food. After about 10 min he left.

Later that evening my friends came back to camp with several Lake Trout and some Brook Trout they had caught during the day. The fox reappeared shortly before dark and finally got what he had been looking for I think, something to eat. My friends were cleaning their fish on the ice and the fox spent half an hour picking up the remains and eating some and caching the rest.

We watched him till dark and the image I will always remember from this encounter will be the one of him playfully chasing little pieces of snow that the wind was blowing across the lake in the falling light and pouncing on them like a cat with a ball of yarn. Life was good.

www.lakesuperiorpark.ca/

 

Just as a post script I'd like to add a comment here and I should have done this before. This is a wild animal and while it is extremely "cute", it is still very much wild and I do not condone feeding wild animals. I have said this before in response to some negative feedback that it is never a good idea to feed wild animals and always keep your distance as they can be upredictable. In this case the fox was being opportunistic and cleaning up the fish remains while my friends were cleaning their fish. This is more of an insight into man and animal relationships that go back thousands of years and while this animal can be seen as cute which it certainly is, no argument there, it is still very much a wild animal. Those animals that survive are the ones that seize the opportunity as this fox did. Northern Ontario Canada is a very hash place in the winter time.

Other photos of this encounter can be seen in the set "Fox in the Park".

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Taken on March 24, 2011