Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

First fox

with 39 comments

Over the 44 years I’ve lived in Austin I’ve only rarely seen a fox, and in those cases I couldn’t get any pictures because the foxes quickly ran off. My luck changed on March 4th at Pedernales Falls State Park. After hiking all the way back up from the river to the parking lot, I noticed a young couple sitting in camp chairs nearby. Then, behind the woman, I saw a fox sitting patiently. I learned that the couple had earlier thrown bits of food toward the fox, and it obligingly had come forward to grab them. That’s why it was still sitting there hoping for more. When the couple saw I’d started taking pictures, they resumed throwing bits of food, and the fox kept coming forward to retrieve them, then retreating a bit. It looks fiercer in the top picture than it really was as it went toward a bit of food. The second photograph shows how it looked when sitting and waiting. From what I’ve seen online, this appears to have been a grey fox, Urocyon cinereoargenteus.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

March 21, 2021 at 7:32 AM

39 Responses

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  1. Pretty little guy, but he seems to have acquired a very bad habit!

    montucky

    March 21, 2021 at 7:42 AM

    • The information sheet that visitors to this park receive says: “Leave feeding to nature. Feeding wild animals will make them sick and more likely to cause harm to people.” Getting people to adhere to that is another story.

      Steve Schwartzman

      March 21, 2021 at 8:03 AM

  2. How exciting, and what a beauty it is! I wish the people weren’t feeding it, though, that could get it killed or someone bit.

    circadianreflections

    March 21, 2021 at 8:17 AM

    • Exciting, indeed, and a decades-delayed first for me. The people were trying to help me out by bringing the fox closer to my camera, but they didn’t realize it’s not generally a good idea to habituate wild animals to human feeding.

      Steve Schwartzman

      March 21, 2021 at 8:37 AM

  3. It seems to me that feeding a wild animal is the first step for it to lose its wildness. Perhaps the fox was already urbanized as it so readily accepted food from the couple. A great opportunity for a few superb photos for your blog, Steve!

    Peter Klopp

    March 21, 2021 at 8:49 AM

    • “Urbanized” is a relative term. Pedernales Falls is out in the country, but I take your point. On a beautiful spring day this park is likely to be crowded. At one point while we were there a swarm of people suddenly appeared, presumably brought there on a bus. In any case, as you said, this encounter with the fox was a great opportunity for me.

      Steve Schwartzman

      March 21, 2021 at 8:58 AM

  4. These are excellent photos of the gray fox. We had a pair on our property several years ago, but haven’t seen any since that time. It’s more common to find red foxes around here. Over the years I’ve witnessed many red foxes venturing into the immediate residential area to dine on cat or dog food left out. I have found lots of trash in our own woods, around fox holes dug near tree roots. Leftovers from chip bags and fast food wrappers seems to be a favorite. I know that many of the neighbors purposefully leave food out for a lot of wildlife, including our deer. We’ve tried to discourage feeding the wild things, but people tend to think they are helping.

    Littlesundog

    March 21, 2021 at 8:50 AM

    • Unlike you, who have real and continued experience with these animals, when I hear “foxhole” I think about soldiers’ trenches. Also unlike you, until yesterday, when I did a little research for this post, I didn’t even know that different kinds of foxes inhabit Texas: in addition to this gray and the red that you mentioned, there’s the kit fox in the northwestern part of the state. It’s easy to understand how dog or cat food left outside would be a magnet for foxes and other animals like squirrels and raccoons. On television I’ve watched several documentaries about wild animals that have adapted to the human world and are now thriving in it.

      Steve Schwartzman

      March 21, 2021 at 9:06 AM

  5. Though I’m not a fan of feeding wildlife and getting them too used to people, I do appreciate the experience of seeing and photographing this beautiful fox. I’ve yet to see or photograph a grey fox, though I have with red a few times. As with you, they most often run off before I can photograph them or I see them when I can’t photograph, like while driving. I’m glad you had this opportunity. They really are beautiful animals.

    Todd Henson

    March 21, 2021 at 9:14 AM

    • I first noticed the fox from a bit of a distance, and as it was sitting not that far from the couple in chairs, I initially wondered if I was seeing some kind of smallish dog that belonged to them (foxes are canids, after all). I even called out to them to ask if it was really a fox, just to be sure. Then I quickly went to work taking advantage of my rare chance for pictures.

      Steve Schwartzman

      March 21, 2021 at 9:46 AM

  6. Around here, it’s alligator feeding that’s most often cautioned against; despite the fact that they’re quite different from foxes, the problems are the same. Once they associate humans with food, they may confuse humans with food. It doesn’t take long for the creatures to figure it out, either. The squirrels who come running when I step out the door aren’t seeking me out because of my sparkling personality; it’s those peanuts and pecans they’re after.

    That aside, what an opportunity for you. The photos are great, and they certainly show off that beautiful coloring. I was intrigued by Lori’s comment about the large hole next to the tree roots. Somehow, I’d never associated wartime foxholes with actual foxes digging holes. I found an exceptionally large hole dug into the ground at the edge of some woods in the Big Thicket. I assumed ‘armadillo’ at the time, but it’s possible that it was made by a fox.

    shoreacres

    March 21, 2021 at 9:33 AM

    • I guess the worst a fox could do to you is bite (unless the fox has rabies), whereas an alligator could kill and eat you. I’m shocked to hear it’s not your sparkling personality that brings squirrels running when you step outside.

      Yes, it was a great opportunity. I put on my 100–400mm lens so I could zoom in on the fox without needing to get near enough that I might scare it off, though it came in pretty close to the people who were tossing it food and might have let me get unusually close, too, thinking I might also have food for it.

      As for actual fox holes, I don’t know how big they can get. As far as I know, theintermittent holes in our yard have all been from armadillos, which we’ve occasional seen.

      Steve Schwartzman

      March 21, 2021 at 9:57 AM

  7. I see the cautions against feeding wild animals has been covered. One might also advise people not to feed deer, because it just causes them to have twins, thus increasing the amount of roadkill. We still have the occasional deer in the greenbelt behind our home, but rarely get to see one, unless I’m at the right place at the right time. But I’ve seen enough deer pellets (and rabbit pellets) to know they are still out there, in their diminishing habitat. BTW, the second photo of the fox is pretty cute!.

    RobertKamper

    March 21, 2021 at 12:58 PM

    • With that second picture you can call me the King of Cute.
      Plenty of deer roam our Great Hills neighborhood in Austin, coming out of adjacent forested areas that have been their home for many millennia. Deer walk our streets here, and it hasn’t been uncommon for me to open the door in the morning to find a deer outside.

      Steve Schwartzman

      March 21, 2021 at 1:59 PM

  8. Congratulations. I’ve never got a shot of one at all so envy this opportunity.

    Steve Gingold

    March 22, 2021 at 3:20 AM

  9. Glad you were able to get the photos and see one, bummer it was being fed!

    Misti

    March 22, 2021 at 10:34 AM

  10. It’s a very handsome fox, Steve, you might even call it foxy (the last comment from my husband). I love the touches of reddish fur here and there.

    tanjabrittonwriter

    March 22, 2021 at 8:04 PM

    • For all the experiences I’ve had with phlox, you’ve heard that this was my first fox. And for your husband it was a foxy fox. The touches of red fur at first made me wonder if this might be a red fox, but then I did some research and saw that red foxes have a lot more reddish fur than this fox had.

      Steve Schwartzman

      March 22, 2021 at 8:15 PM

  11. I’ve seen a fair number of red foxes around upstate NY, but gray ones are rare. This past winter (boy it’s great to say that *past*) my sister was taking walks pretty late, before going to bed, and saw a red one most evenings, on the playground a few houses from my parents’ house. But I think I’ve almost never seen a gray one, except in the Adirondacks.

    Robert Parker

    March 23, 2021 at 3:21 PM

    • You and your sister have seen a lot more foxes than I have. Maybe New York’s a foxy state. From what I’ve recently read online, the red fox is the most common fox in the world, but it’s not the most common in Texas, where the grey one is found throughout the state. The red one in Texas lives in the eastern and central parts of the state.

      Steve Schwartzman

      March 23, 2021 at 5:19 PM

      • Foxes and coyotes have made quite a comeback in NY, now I’m hoping to spot a wolf someday

        Robert Parker

        March 23, 2021 at 7:26 PM

  12. A beautiful little fox! We have grey foxes up here too. They make the most unusual growly barks and whines.

    Lavinia Ross

    March 23, 2021 at 10:48 PM

  13. You got some great pictures but people should never, ever feed wild animals. It is not good for their health or habits. This fox looks very different from the foxes we have here. I guess ours are red foxes.

    denisebushphoto

    March 24, 2021 at 11:01 AM

    • The flyer that the park service gives to visitors at Pedernales Falls tells them not to feed wild animals, but not everyone sees that sentence, and of the people who do read it, some or many don’t comply.

      Steve Schwartzman

      March 24, 2021 at 3:17 PM


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