Friday, August 13, 2010

Mammals of St Paul: Arctic Fox

The Pribilof Island Arctic Fox (Vulpes lagopus) is a cutie for certain. The fox on St. Paul are known as Blue Fox because they take on a blue-grey color coat in winter rather than pure white. Their coats were highly prized by Russian fur traders in the 1700's. At 3 feet long (most of that length is fluffy tail) and 7-15 pounds they are amazingly agile. They are able to scale the cliffs and steal eggs and chicks from unsuspecting murre and auklet.

I had hoped to see one and was thrilled when I found one hunting along the cliff.
He spotted me and ducked behind a rock, playing hide-n-seek before he ran away with an expression of guilt on his face. I counted myself lucky to have gotten a few close up frames. A few days later I was laughing at my naivety.

I was walking along a cliff when I heard Greg and Alan yelling at me. I looked up and they were frantically pointing behind me... I turned around and fo
und I was being stalked. Not 10 feet behind me was the cutest chocolate colored male fox. Soon he was too close for me to even focus on... Oh how I wish I had, had a wide angle lens in my pocket. After practically sitting in my lap he made the rounds to a group of tour boat tourists before posing majestically on a rock for our entire photo group. He gave us almost a full our of his time and we might have stayed even longer if the fog hadn't rolled in and obscured our shots.

Life is pretty hard for these guys. The only rodents on the island are an endemic
shrew and there are no polar bears to follow after in winter. They depend on the birds and many of them have come to depend on the people. Dens in town, often inside abandon cars or under sheds and dens near the dump... we even had a fox visit our hotel. I have to admit, if they didn't smell so badly (almost skunk-like)... I would have tried to take one home.


Ron Niebrugge said...

Those are great!


John W. Wall said...

What Ron said. Excellent. So much fun to read and look at.

Rebecca Jackrel said...

Thanks guys!! So glad you are enjoying the critters!