Story and Photographs by Melissa Groo
This past spring, in upstate New York, I had the opportunity to photograph a family of wild Red Foxes at their den. The den was located under a shed in a suburban backyard, and the homeowners granted me permission to set up my pop-up blind in their yard, about 50 yards from the shed. Though they knew full well that I was in the blind, this fox family seemed pretty accustomed to human presence, and they went about their lives without appearing disturbed by me. This is of paramount importance to me when I photograph a wild animal, as I seek to capture behavior that’s as natural as possible, and I never want to disturb or endanger my subjects.
Over the course of about a month, I traveled to my set up whenever I had a free moment, spending hours in my blind; I always left wishing I could stay longer. I was fascinated by the relationship dynamics among the family members, and enthralled by the playfulness of the kits. I counted 6 kits at first, guessing they were roughly 2 months old. I was struck by how much they acted like puppies, which is no surprise, as foxes are members of the Canidae family. The kits roughhoused constantly, rolling and tumbling over each other. As time went on, their playfulness had an edge of ferocity, and their interactions became more adversarial. They honed their hunting skills by stalking one another around the tree trunks and shed corners, and familiarized themselves with prey by proudly carrying around the bodies of star-nosed moles and squirrels that their parents had brought back for them.