A Tail of Two Foxes

In November I travelled with Natures Images to the small town of Churchill, situated on the western shore of Hudson Bay in Manitoba, Canada. Churchill is famous for the many polar bears that move toward the shore in the autumn, giving the town its nickname of “Polar Bear Capital of the World.” Many bears congregate on the vast tundra peninsula near Churchill as they wait for the temperatures to drop and the sea to freeze. When this happens the bears will head out onto the ice in search of their primary food source, ringed seals. We were to spend four days searching for polar bears, traveling in a huge tundra buggy but for one day before and two days after our tundra buggy adventure we concentrated our efforts on the local red and arctic foxes.

Red Fox (Vulpes vulpes)

Traveling in a 4×4 pickup we cruised the icy roads in and out of the town in search of our foxes and struck lucky on the first morning with this beautiful Red Fox. He proved to be extremely tame, settling on the snow and allowing us to approach and photograph him from close quarters. He looked to be in superb condition wearing his richly coloured winter coat.

Red Fox (Vulpes vulpes)

Red Fox (Vulpes vulpes)

After a while he decided to move around and seemed to be checking out the group which enabled us to get a few different photographs. Lying flat on my tummy I managed a few low angle shots which have turned out to be some of my favourite images from the trip.

Red Fox (Vulpes vulpes)

Red Fox (Vulpes vulpes)

Red Fox (Vulpes vulpes)

Red Fox (Vulpes vulpes)

It had been a successful Lemming year during the summer and consequently a successful breeding season for the local Arctic Foxes as females give birth each spring to a litter of up to 14 pups. The Arctic Fox is an incredibly hardy animal and can survive Arctic temperatures as low as -50 degrees centigrade. In winter the Arctic Fox has a beautiful white coat that enables the fox to blend into the tundra’s snow and ice landscape. In summer the fox’s coat becomes brown or grey as the tundra loses its snowy covering.

During our four days in the tundra buggies we did see Arctic Foxes several times and my favourite was this little fox resting during a blizzard.

Arctic Fox (Vulpes lagopus)

During our last two days in Churchill the weather greatly improved with very cold clear days as we continued our search for Arctic Fox by 4×4 vehicle. Despite searching the outskirts of town, it turned out that they were to be found right in the centre of town, in fact a car park behind the Seaport Hotel! Here we watched and photographed as they scurried across the car park and climbed a mound of snow. Three sessions photographing these beautiful animals enabled us to photograph in different light conditions. The beautiful pink glow of early morning on our last day was a photographers dream.

Arctic Fox (Vulpes Lagopus)

Arctic Fox (Vulpes Lagopus)

Arctic Fox (Vulpes Lagopus)

Arctic Fox (Vulpes Lagopus)

Arctic Fox (Vulpes Lagopus)

Arctic Fox (Vulpes Lagopus)

Arctic Fox (Vulpes Lagopus)

Both Red and Arctic Fox had been a real bonus and although I thought we would see them, I never dreamed we would get such amazing opportunities to see and photograph them so closely. However the main reason for being here was to see and photograph polar bears and that will be the subject of my next blog.