Posts from the ‘Gray Fox’ Category

Gray Foxes from 20 Feet! Sax-Zim Bog, Minnesota

Gray Fox pair Welcome Center Owl Ave Sax-Zim Bog MN IMG_3716Twenty years ago, the Gray Fox was rarely seen in the North Woods of Minnesota. But they have now arrived! This is the second and third Gray Fox I have photographed in the Sax-Zim Bog in the last year. The first one I photographed was along the Creek Road in summer of 2013. I had seen something cross the road up ahead, and I thought it might have been a Pine Marten. I stopped the van, got out and gave a few calls on my predator mouth call. Within seconds, a Gray Fox burst out of the woods, looking, presumably, for the source of the call. I got a decent shot, but I was not really prepared. The first proof I had of a Gray Fox in the Sax-Zim Bog was one I “caught” one on my Trail Camera in the winter of 2011-12, very near where these two were photographed.

Gray Fox pair Welcome Center Owl Ave Sax-Zim Bog MN IMG_3770I first became aware that the Sax-Zim Bog Welcome Center feeders were being visited by this rare animal back in December. I found some scat that I couldn’t immediately identify. It was canid-like, but composed of sunflower seed shells and rodent hair. The only winter mammal I know that eats both is the Gray Fox.

Gray Fox pair Welcome Center Owl Ave Sax-Zim Bog MN IMG_3647Then in early February, some visitors got glimpses of a Gray Fox towards dusk. My friend Jason Mandich even managed to photograph one. The next day, our Welcome Center host, Heather-Marie, discovered that there were TWO Gray Fox coming to the feeders. The next afternoon, I was there…Ready and waiting…INSIDE the Welcome Center.

Gray Fox pair Welcome Center Owl Ave Sax-Zim Bog MN IMG_3703Then before 3pm, one arrived! …and then a second! Must be a mated pair as they seemed to get along quite well, feeding under the same feeder for quite a while. We barely breathed as we stood inside the Welcome Center. Then one headed our way, making its path for the feeder closest to the building. I shot through the windows of the Welcome Center, crouching down so I could shoot eye-level to the small fox.

Gray Fox pair Welcome Center Owl Ave Sax-Zim Bog MN IMG_3717FUN GRAY FOX FACTS: These very small canids are about two feet long, plus the 12 to 15 inch long bushy tail. Adults weigh from 8 to 14 pounds…the weight of a large house cat! They are found across the southern and eastern U.S. and south through Mexico, Central America to Columbia and Venezuela in South America.

Gray Fox pair Welcome Center Owl Ave Sax-Zim Bog MN IMG_3755A fox that can climb trees? Yes, the Gray Fox is very adept at climbing tree trunks, either for food or safety.

Gray Fox pair Welcome Center Owl Ave Sax-Zim Bog MN IMG_3751What do they eat? Well, we’ve established that they will eat sunflower seeds (Note this guy’s got a shell on his face). My friend Karl Bardon recently watched on eat for over an hour at his feeder. The scat I found at the Welcome Center is filled with sunflower seed shells and rodent hair. They are also reported to eat Cottontails, newly-dropped White-tailed Deer fawns, mice, voles, fruit and insects.

Gray Fox pair Welcome Center Owl Ave Sax-Zim Bog MN IMG_3710The MN DNR website says that “breeding occurs in late winter, and gestation (time required for the young to develop) is about two months. Litter size averages four, and the young stay with their mother until autumn. Red and Gray Fox do not cross-breed in the wild.”

Gray Fox pair Welcome Center Owl Ave Sax-Zim Bog MN IMG_3700

[ALL IMAGES SHOT THROUGH WINDOW GLASS! Don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t shoot great wildlife shots through your windows. But you need to remember a few things:
1. Make sure your windows are clean! No smudgy kid finger and hand smears. Glass cleaner and crumpled newspaper works great.
2. Shoot straight through the glass…Make sure your lens is perpendicular to the glass. Shooting at an angle through windows often results in lower image quality.
3. Pray your subject is in good light…full morning or late afternoon sun, or high overcast. Deep shade reduces contrast and sun-dappled light makes for difficult exposures.

[all with Canon 7D and Canon 400mm f5.6 lens, Most at ISO 400, f5.6 at 1/640 second, AI Servo AutoFocus mode (to track the moving subjects).]

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Lynx! Gray Fox! My Friends Successes

As a wildlife photographer, I am sometimes as excited when my friends get amazing or difficult shots as when I do. Oh sure, there is the twinge of jealousy, but if we put enough time and effort into the job, we all get our turn. So today I’d like to show you some fantastic shots two of my friends got this week.

Lloyd Davis is one of the few out-of-state birders who has a.) found their own Boreal Owl (!) and b.) seen and photographed a wild Canada Lynx. Lloyd’s a biologist from Gainesville, Florida but he grew up in Maine. Last year I guided Lloyd and his buddies on a birding trip and we found a very cooperative Great Gray Owl. This year he brought his two daughters and a grand daughter…all from Maine…to see and experience Northern Minnesota’s birds, scenery and wildlife.

And obviously they had very good luck! While driving up in northern Lake County Minnesota, along Hwy 15/11 one morning (last Monday) they spotted two Timber Wolves along the road. Then, not 45 minutes later, they spotted a Canada Lynx sauntering out from the woods to the road edge. They stopped, kept the car running and watched. The first thing the cat did was sit down…”to check out the situation, like many cats do…almost as if its hind end is too heavy and the Lynx needed a break,” Lloyd observed. And that’s when he was able to fire off a dozen or more photos with his Canon.

Look at those paws! Now those are “snowshoes!” No wonder they can float over deep snow in pursuit of the other snowshoe-bearer…the Snowshoe Hare. Their head looks relatively small in comparison. Long legs, huge paws, long ear tufts and overall size help distinguish this cat from the much smaller Bobcat.

This area of Lake County is the core of the Lynx population in Minnesota, but very few folks ever see them. I’ve only seen one in my life and that was late at night in the headlights while doing owl surveys with Dave Benson up in Cook County.

Lloyd’s photos are some of the best ever taken of a wild Canada Lynx in Minnesota. They rank right up there with Jason Mandich’s which were taken near here and published in the Minnesota Conservation Volunteer last year. Nice job Lloyd! (p.s. I won’t tell you that this was taken with a point-and-shoot! It just goes to show that the best camera is the one you have when the decisive moment is upon you)

After a recent image of a Gray Fox (at night) that I surprisingly captured with a trail camera up in the Sax-Zim Bog, my friend Karl Bardon emailed me that he’d seen a Gray Fox regularly coming to a friends feeder on the North Shore of Lake Superior. These smaller cousins of the Red Fox are becoming more common in northeastern Minnesota. So I stopped over to see if this dainty canine would make it five nights in a row that it showed up at dusk. Nope. I jinxed it. Oh well, Karl got some very nice shots of this gorgeous critter.

Note the shorter snout, dainty face and feet (their tracks are tiny…almost house cat size), beautiful grizzled/mottled fur and the black tip on the tail (can’t see in this photo) (Red Fox always have a white tip…even if in the “Cross Fox” or “Silver Fox” morphs). Karl and I were both surprised by how colorful and “non-gray” these canines are.

Congrats to both Lloyd and Karl on capturing some elusive North Woods critters! I know it motivates me to get out more often and try my luck.