16 FebNew Jersey, Photography, Wildlife | 29 Comments
During the middle 1990’s, my wife, Veronica, and I used to go to Island Beach State Park in New Jersey during the late afternoon during the winter months to see red foxes, Vulpes vulpes. They always seemed to be there. Island Beach State Park has a single main road that runs from the entrance about ten miles south. At its southernmost point, you can either drive onto the beach with a beach buggy permit or park your vehicle and walk out to the beach. The foxes would come out to the roadway and wait for handouts from passerby’s. It made for great opportunities to photograph these magnificent animals. The authorities frowned on people feeding the foxes but the foxes seemed to love it. There were all kinds of offerings: fish, tuna fish, hot dogs and even Milkbone dog biscuits.
At sometime during the early 2000’s, the population of red foxes on Island Beach State Park where wiped out. I have been checking on line from time to time to see if there has been a renewal of the population but found nothing.
On the day before President’s Day, Veronica and I decided to take a ride and see if the foxes have returned. We had just left the main entrance into the park and about a quarter of a mile up there was a red fox standing on the side of the road. I pulled over to the side (this is also frowned upon) and took a few quick photos through the open driver’s side window. The fox didn’t stay around long and trotted off into the woods. Veronica and I looked at each other and smiled. Maybe they are back! We drove to the southern most part of the park and didn’t see another fox. We headed north and were about a mile from the main entrance and still no foxes. We did a u-turn and made another round trip without a sighting.
We were beginning to think that we might not be as lucky as we have been in the past and decided to call it a day. In almost the same place that we saw the red fox on the way in – we saw it again. We were so close to the main entrance that we didn’t dare park on the side of the road so we made another u-turn and drove to the first parking area which I think was at least a half mile from where we saw the fox.
We grabbed out winter coats (it was about 40° F) and my camera and tripod and walked down the road. We saw a few cars stop and admire the fox. Veronica said that she felt that we should run as not to miss the fox. I told her that if it was still there in all the time that we were in the park that it was a good chance that it would be there if we walked. As we approached the area, the fox was in the middle of the road and when it saw us, hot footed it towards the parks entrance. We weren’t sure what to do so I set up my tripod where we had seen the fox and Veronica walked towards the entrance. She saw the fox trot into the brush after a rabbit and decided to head back towards where I was. Low and behold, about two minutes later, the fox trotted onto the road south of our position and stopped across the road from us. There was something to eat along the side of the road. I don’t know what it was but we could smell something foul.
I think that we were out of the foxes discomfort zone because it acted like we were not there. It would retreat into the brush when cars would drive by. When a passing car stopped to talk to us, the fox trotted into the road to see if they had anything to offer. They were more concerned about our safety because the driver had been bitten by a red fox. We told them that we were fine and did not feel threatened by the fox.
It was nearing sunset and the light was getting very low when the fox decided that it was time to leave. Veronica and I stayed at our site for about fifteen minutes to see if the fox would return. It did not and we made the long walk back to our vehicle.
There are so many crazy things going on in our lives right now that we have neglected some of the things that we love the most. I don’t know whether this is the only red fox to return to Island Beach State Park but I wish the fox well. It provides an incredible view of wildlife that most of us don’t see. I remember my ride to work last week on the Garden State Parkway. A red fox was in the middle of four lanes. It looked like it had already been hit but was sitting up – swaying from side to side like someone who has had too much to drink. It broke my heart to know that I couldn’t help the fox and that its lifespan was limited. Now I wish that he had found his way to Island Beach State Park.
Tp see more of my red fox photos, visit the red fox section of my photo gallery.
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