A Close-ish Encounter with a Fox

The curious fox after I crouched down. No, it did not obey the “Danger Thin Ice” sign.

My office sits on a manmade island in the Duluth-Superior Harbor. Its windows overlook a stretch of water that leads to the mainland. In addition to water, sky and ice, the view sometimes includes animals like coyotes, bears, groundhogs, birds (lots of waterbirds!), otters, rabbits, and foxes.

This winter, a fox has been frequenting the island. I don’t think it lives here – I don’t see its tracks that often, but maybe the island is one of its winter getaways.

The other day as I was transcribing an interview, I saw the fox pass my office window. It was headed toward the slope along ice and snow-covered water. I leapt out of my chair and grabbed my phone to take pictures. It was cold that day, in the single digits, so I remembered to take my jacket but not my gloves (can’t take pictures with gloves on).

I trotted out the office door and carefully looked around the corner toward the harbor. The fox was far out on the ice by now, but as I stepped away from my office building, it must have noticed my movements and it stopped, looking at me intently.

I took a few photos, but (as you can see) the fox was too distant for anything good. My hands were getting cold, so I put them into my jacket pockets along with my phone. I waited to see what the fox would do. It just stood, watching me.

I wished the fox would come closer. Inspired, I crouched down so that the fox couldn’t see me because of the small hill of snow that lined the slope leading down to the ice. Soon, the fox’s head popped up above the snow hill, his/her eyes still trained on me. Appealing to the fox’s curiosity worked!

I took a few more photos from that vantage. The fox was still too far away. I knew that food was the only thing that might lure it closer. I didn’t have any and don’t really like the idea of feeding wild animals, so I just stayed in my crouch, enjoying the fox’s undivided attention. Its fur was fluffy and full, its color a rich red – quite a handsome animal.

Putting my phone and hands back into my pockets was awkward at this angle so, my icy hands soon told me it was time to go back inside. Besides, I also realized the fox probably thought I was going to give it a handout. I’m sure other people must have. I didn’t want to tease it any longer, so I stood and went into the office.

When I looked out my window again, the fox had moved back onto the ice, but it was still staring intently at the office door. Maybe it thought I was going to come back out with some food. Maybe it missed me, ha ha. It waited a few minutes, walked further, stopped and stared again. This went on several more times before the fox gave up and trotted back to the mainland shore.

Despite the interruption in my work for pay, I felt like I accomplished a lot that day during a few minutes spent communing with a fox.

10 thoughts on “A Close-ish Encounter with a Fox

    • As you may be able to tell, I had to enlarge that fox image quite a bit! I’m always amazed that anything can survive here when the temps start to get below zero. I don’t know how they do it. Makes me very thankful for a warm house (and office).

  1. We have a fox that occasionally struts down the street where I live, very close to where you work. Maybe it’s the same fox. A couple of weeks ago I finished reading Fox & I by Catherine Raven. It’s a wonderful memoir written about a biologist’s friendship with a fox. But it also raises questions about how we as humans treat animals and nature with disrespect. I loved the book.

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