By Brittany Crossman
Why Prince Edward Island? Is probably the most frequent question I am asked. Prince Edward Island is a Vulpes vulpes gem. The island has a large, healthy urban red fox population, as well as many rural foxes that call places like PEI National Park home. These two options alone give a great variety of photographic opportunities, as well as learning experiences. Foxes living in different environments, urban versus suburban, behave quite differently. These differences make photographing the island foxes appealing.
Another alluring aspect of PEI is the color variants of the foxes. On the island, there are three red fox pelage colorations: red, cross, and silver. Red being the most common of the three. The cross fox is the red coloration with black marking due to being partially melanistic. This color phase gets its name from the long dark stripe running down its back, intersecting another stripe across the shoulders forming a cross. The most uncommon is the silver fox. These foxes are complete melanistic variants (think of it as the opposite of albino) which gives them dark black fur. The name silver fox comes from the light greyish-white outer hairs. The amount of silver in these foxes varies from fox to fox.
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As a wildlife photographer, spring is always an exciting time as it is when animals start having their young. For me, this means fox kit season. Red fox kits have become one of my favourite subjects to photograph due to their charisma, and playfulness. Watching their dedicated parents care for them is also very endearing. This spring I have been lucky to photograph two separate fox families. Both these families are unique, and have very different family dynamics. The first den has two red parents, and a third adult helper, which is no doubt the mother’s female kit from last year. These helper foxes are non-breeding vixens related to the family that stay back, contributing to the survival of the next generation. The mother and helper seem to do the majority of the work at this particular den. They both hunt, bringing back what seems like an endless buffet of rodents.
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The father fox usually isn’t far, always on the watch, but doesn’t seem to have much do with hunting and caring for the kits. He usually is in the nearby field curled up in a ball sleeping. When the mother brings back food, and starts to nurse the kits, the father fox comes for a quick visit, but typically takes food, trotting back out to the field.
The other den has a silver father (dog) and a red mother (vixen). This den too has a helper fox, but, the role between the vixen and dog is almost 50/50. They rotate turns at the den and hunting. When the vixen gets back, the dog goes out to hunt. When he returns, then the vixen will leave again. The silver male at this den seems to have a never-ending amount of patience with his kits. Unfortunately, this family hasn’t been seen in the last little while; there are off-leash dogs in this area, which they didn’t seem overly fond of. I am hoping they just moved to another den location which isn’t uncommon for foxes to do if disrupted.
When finding an active den in use, it is always very exciting, but important to give them space. If you ever find a den, keep a distance and let them get used to you. Once they no longer feel that you are a possible threat, the photographing opportunities are endless.
*All images and text in this article are copyright Brittany Crossman and shall not be republished or reproduced in any fashion without the written consent of Brittany Crossman.