At this season Nature makes the most of every throb of life that can withstand her severity. How heartily she endorses this fox!
~John Burroughs, “The Snow-Walkers”, 1866
Hayden Valley is one of my favorite spots in winter, with its gently rolling hills covered in deep, smooth snow, interrupted only by an isolated tree here and there and the tracks of some animal wandering across a seemingly endless blanket of white. As our snow coach pulled away from the river’s edge and started to climb a hill, we saw another coach headed our way that had stopped, photographers out along the road. Moving steadily away from them (and us) was a gorgeous red fox in great low angle winter light. The other group was headed back to their vehicle as we jumped out, and I admit I was frustrated that this beauty was soon to disappear over the hill toward the river.
We waited, and watched. In a short while, the fox came trotting back over the hill toward us and then plopped down in the snow, eyes squinting against the bright light, looking incredibly regal in its luxuriant fur coat.
Most red foxes in the lower 48 states (especially East of the Rockies), are believed to be a subspecies introduced from Europe in the 1700 and 1800’s for hunting and fur farming. But, there are also native subspecies that occur at high elevations in Yellowstone (generally above 8000 feet in the park) and other northern regions. The latter tend to be lighter in color and are known as mountain foxes. This fox was full-on red – an incredibly beautiful animal, and the scene we were lucky enough to see it in was equally stunning.
As we walked along the road, the fox moved steadily across the snow field. Periodically, it paused, and I kept hoping for the classic fox snow pounce, an arching leap ending with a head plunge into the snow to grab an unsuspecting creature tunneling beneath the white surface. But, it never happened.
The closest we got was a nose plunge, but I’ll take it. Fox sightings have increased over the years since the reintroduction of wolves. Wolves keep coyote numbers in check, Coyotes kept fox numbers down. Fewer coyotes, more foxes.
These are the moments that stay with me, the chance to observe a beautiful wild creature going about its life, seemingly unconcerned by our presence. It is a rare treat enhanced by the fact that it happened in a spectacular location and was shared with good friends. How lucky for us all.
Those are truly wonderful photos! You just made my day!
Thanks, Mary Kay.
Incredible photography. Beautiful animal.
Thank you…yes, indeed, a beautiful creature.
Fantastic, Mike! Love this series. I know why you hoped for a snow pounce. In June 2014, we rented a condo in Silverthorne, CO at 9000 ft. The deck backed to an overgrown field then forest backdropped by the high peaks. At times we were visited by a hunting red fox — grass up to its shoulders. Moving slowly it would stop — then spring up completely clearing the grass and down nose first. She was successful –coming away with a large field mouse. Later, she showed up again passing through with two kits.
Very cool! They are fascinating animals.
Oh yes, this is a highlight! What an awesome Fox series!
LOVE the photos you captured of this beautiful fox. Gorgeous and healthy looking. Was able to observe a red fox family with 4 kits in RMNP (eastern side) for several weeks last summer. 3 black and 1 red kit. Mom was primarily red. Much larger than any eastern red foxes I’ve seen. Fantastic experience but memories only in my head, no photos. Always enjoy your posts. Thank you