Red Fox Dental Check-up

KILLARNEY PROVINCIAL PARK – Superb location to spot wildlife, from black bears to moose to foxes. With a bit of luck you will encounter the friendly red fox that seems to have taken up residence close to the main entrance in the park. Arrive at the gate at sunset and you have a good chance of her coming out of the forest and greet you.

We were just leaving the park when my wife spotted the red fox crossing the street just a few meters from our truck. In less than twenty seconds I was out of the driver seat and onto the grass trying to frame her with my 500mm lens. The sun was very low in the sky and the light was perfect for photography but unfortunately she was standing between me and the sun. I'd have loved to have her looking into the sun but, when photographing wildlife, you don't have too much say into arranging your subject matter at will. In most cases you are lucky to get your wild subject into focus and into the frame.

While she proved to be friendly and curious at my presence, she also jumped back playfully-shy each time I would try to move around her. So I decided to not push my luck and go for a ground-level, high key photograph.

A portrait of the red fox in Ontario

Lying down in the grass clearly encouraged her to come even closer. There were times when she got so close that my 500mm lens would not focus. There were other times when she avoided engaging me from the front and approached from the sides. And, as before, each attempt to bring the fox back into the frame triggered the playful (and evasive) jump in the air.

As the minutes passed, she seemed content with my non-threatening behaviour so she decided to take position in the grass just 2 meters in front of me in another playful posture – very similar to dogs when they 'play bow', by lowering the front half of its body while keeping its rear in the air. Was it an invitation to come and play? Was she saying, "Let's play, what's your next move?"

This frame was shot by my wife through the truck's window. It provides context to the entire scene, showing us how close the red fox was to the camera and how impatient she seemed for me to join in the play.

A playfull red fox in grass

As I continued to remain still her play interest subsided as she relaxed her body on the side and she started grooming herself. Since she lied down too close I had to slowly retreat so I can have enough distance for my lens to focus.

Finally, I've reached the position were my camera acquired focus. When photographing wildlife, it is a good practice to focus on your subject eyes. If the eyes are out-of-focus, you have a good chance to ruin an otherwise memorable photograph.

With her eyes now in sharp focus, I started to capture a few frames of her grooming. From time to time she would stop and look straight into the lens. Even to this day, her eyes still fascinate me as I continue to guess what was going through her mind.

Red Fox Close-up

Note the reflection of the sky and my SUV in her eyes.

And then she yawned at length, telling me that all was well with the world at the moment. She showed her beautiful teeth, which looked very healthy. After closer examination of the photograph at 100% magnification, I can confirm she has no cavities and each tooth is perfectly clean (and very sharp). Any dentist would be proud of her.

Red Fox Close-up

There you have it, a wildlife encounter at the gates of Killarney Provincial Park. Next time you are there, look for the friendly red fox.

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{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Diana Goldstein December 30, 2009 at 6:52 pm

Gorgeous photographs, absolutely love the one she yawns :)

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NaomiG January 3, 2010 at 3:36 pm

These photographs are so pretty – just amazing how close you were from her. I've photographed a few red foxes but always far away and all very shy. I should come to Canada more often maybe I get better chances to shoot wildlife ;-)

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keijo tapanainen January 11, 2010 at 8:03 pm

You wonderfully capture the moment. Thanks, keijo

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