At Peace With a Fox

My time spent photographing a family of foxes in suburban Bristol is now sadly over, but one particular encounter will stay with me for a very long time.

An hour or so before sunset I headed over to a small public park where I’d found an adult fox (I think a male) wandering around a few times before. Right on cue, there he was, lazing around on the grass and looking like he hadn’t fully woken up after sleeping through the day.

Red Fox

Before long he started to perk up a bit and went for a wander. Luckily for me, he’d clearly decided that his first job of the evening was to investigate the photographer slowly crawling towards him. So used to people that he’s now almost completely unafraid of them, the fox approached closer and closer, only hesitating when he was less than a metre away. At this point I simply enjoyed the moment as he was too near for my lens to focus anyway.

Red Fox Portrait

When he was done checking me out, this bold fox sauntered off to patrol the rest of his territory, including the few other people who were walking around or relaxing in the park. Finding everything to his satisfaction, he sat back down and watched the world go by for a while.

Urban Fox

I’d taken my bag off my back to make lying on the ground a little more comfortable, and I gradually moved further away from it as I crawled around to get a different angle. Suddenly the fox jumped up and ran straight towards me, veering off at the last minute and going for the rucksack instead. Fortunately he didn’t leave many teeth marks!

Urban Fox

There might not be any other wild animal in the country that’s as inquisitive and bold as urban foxes can be. As soon as anything new appears in their territory, it’s quickly sniffed, chewed and occasionally peed on. My rucksack escaped this unpleasant liquid fate, but a few nights later my bike wasn’t quite so lucky.

The fox quickly got bored of my bag and sat down to watch me instead. He seemed completely relaxed, even turning his back on me a few times despite being just a few metres away. Apparently I wasn’t interesting enough to hold his attention for long though, and he got up, stretched and yawned in the way that foxes always do, revealing a dazzling and impressive set of teeth that would make any dentist proud.

Red Fox Yawning

He wandered off again, but this time I lost him as I was changing lenses to cope with the fading light. It took me a while to find him again, and I was about to give up and head for home when I decided to check a small contemplation area down a little-used path. I had no idea what a treat I was in for!

There, resting in the middle of the leaf-strewn path, was the same fox as before, curled up comfortably on the ground and gazing straight at me.

I dropped to the floor and started inching closer. He looked like he was settling down for a nap, but whenever there was movement on the main path behind me or a noise behind the wall to the side, his head would snap up suspiciously. It was pretty dark by this point – we were under the cover of trees after sunset on an overcast night – so none of the passers by even saw me or the fox, and we were left in peace. Sensing no danger, he soon relaxed again, occasionally lifting his head to smell a new scent on the breeze.

Red Fox

As the colour faded from the sky, he tucked his head into the warm and cozy gap between his body and his tail, and he drifted off to sleep.

To have any wild animal trust you enough to fall asleep in front of you is a rare privilege and a very special experience. Occasionally someone would walk by behind me again, the fox’s ears would twitch and he’d check to make sure everything was okay. When the person kept walking, the fox would look at me instead, accept me again and fall back to sleep.

Sleeping Red Fox

As comfortable as this fox always is around people, I’m sure he only accepted me to this extent because I’d already spent so much time with him. I’m not sure how long we were lying on the floor in each other’s company, but it was one of the most amazing wild experiences I’ve ever been lucky enough to enjoy.

Of course I took quite a few photos, but it became progressively more challenging as the light levels dropped further. Some of my shots were more than half a second long, so I had to time them with the rise and fall of the fox’s chest so that his fur wasn’t blurred by movement during the long exposure. I gave up a few minutes later and sat back to quietly watch my new vulpine friend, both of us relaxed and content.

When it was so dark that I could barely see him anymore his ears started twitching again, and he slowly woke up, stretched and yawned before giving me one last look and walking off into the night.

Sleeping Red Fox

If you want to see my previous urban fox photos, check out my Urban Foxes blog post from a few weeks ago. And if you don’t want to miss any future wildlife stories like this one, be sure to sign up for monthly updates using the signup box in the sidebar 🙂

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  1. Marie September 24, 2015 at 23:05 #

    How fabulous, I am new to all this learning day by day, would be amazed to see something as wonderful as this one day, it’s very beautiful

    • Sam Coppard September 25, 2015 at 08:40 #

      Thanks very much Marie! It really was a very special experience 🙂 Just keep getting out there and taking photos whenever you can and it will all start coming together pretty quickly. And you might just find a friendly fox while you’re at it!