The warm months of early summer are a good time for a predator hunter to head afield with a camera instead of a rifle. And because I live in a part of the world that is cold enough to make winter furs worth good dollars, I prefer to shoot only photos during the summertime.
So, when a friend alerted me to the location of a fox den, I grabbed my Nikon 7100, a 400mm lens and jumped in the truck one evening to see if I could catch some good pictures.
I found the first den easily and spotted three fox pups outside playing. They weren't too concerned about my presence and I even got to see Mom bring them some supper. I kept the Nikon clicking and my favorite photo turned out to be one when a little rascal sat still long enough to watch the setting sun. The best description I can think of that fits these guys: felony cute.
A few nights later I headed out for another photo shoot. But after getting into position and waiting, not a single fox showed all evening. I know that fox can have several dens and will move their pups around if needed, so I assumed that's what happened. Still, I couldn't shake the feeling something was wrong, so I abandoned my spot and walked over to the den for a look.
This was one of those times when my feelings got it right. A lot of digging had been going on at the den site and it was obvious the hole had been considerably enlarged. Something furry was visible in the soft dirt near the hole, so I dug it out.
Much to my dismay, the severed head of one of the fox pups was revealed—it was obvious the body had been consumed. Tracks in the soft dirt indicated one or more coyotes had found the den and turned one little fox into a meal. I couldn't find any sign of the other two, so I hope the mother got away with them.
It was a sickening find, but this, of course, is how nature works. The big dogs eat the little dogs and the coyote was just doing what comes naturally. If that coyote ever runs into one of the wolves that passes through this area occasionally, it'll learn that it's not the biggest dog in these woods and likely turn into a meal itself.
In the meantime, if I shoot a coyote in this area come winter, I'll be thinking about it as payback for this little fox pup.