This summer, two Vancouver Aquarium staffers are visiting communities in Canada’s Arctic. Eric Solomon, director of the Aquarium’s Arctic Programs, and Neil Fisher, Aquarium photographer and videographer, will share their perspectives on people, places and experiences as they learn more about changes taking place in this region. This fifth installment is written by Eric Solomon.

Last Sunday, we headed out around 9 p.m. to check out a large Arctic fox den at the end of a fiord outside of Cambridge Bay. We had heard stories of fox pups frolicking on the tundra, and the potential for great photo opportunities. Neil and I rode out and parked our quad ATVs about 500 metres from the den, then walked the rest of the way. Within a minute or two of shutting off the engines, we heard high-pitched yelps, and soon saw three foxes dashing back and forth on the tundra, chasing each other, rolling and playing. Neil got some great footage from a distance, and we moved closer. Two foxes had gone over a ridge, leaving the third resting near the den.

The fox den covered an area roughly 10 meters in diameter and had about six to 10 entrances.

Bones from past meals – including weasels, birds and lemmings – were everywhere, “trophies” left on the tundra outside the various fox holes.

The occasional caribou foot or muskox jaw had also been scavenged, eaten and left outside the den.

The lone fox we sighted surely saw Neil and I creeping closer; it’s not like there were trees and bushes to hide behind.

Despite our obvious encroachment, the fox mostly ignored us. In fact, it lay down outside one of the holes and shut its eyes, even as we approached.

We spent about two hours with this little guy (and about a million mosquitoes) and got some great shots.

As Neil and I crept closer, we starting shedding our gear: backpacks, camera bags, then tripods and eventually my telephoto lens. It was around 1:30 a.m. when the fox decided to do some exploring of his own, and came upon my jettisoned telephoto lens. Here’s how that went down:

The fox discovers my lens on the tundra…

It doesn’t smell like food…

A quick taste reveals that indeed, it’s not food. Only one thing left to do with it then…

Yes, you’re seeing what we saw – that fox is urinating on my nice telephoto lens.

And with that, the fox trotted off to join its siblings up on the ridge, leaving me with many great pictures and one wet, smelly lens to remember him by.

 

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