I had heard about the friendly Red Foxes of Island Beach State Park along the New Jersey coast, so in the winter of 2012 I made my first visit there to attempt to photograph them. From what I understood people tend to feed these foxes which make them very habituated to human's presence. While this is great to be able to see and photograph these beautiful animals it is not the best for their survival since it causes them to hang out by the roads and increases the chances of them being hit by a car. It is expressly prohibited to feed these wild foxes and subject to fines if you are caught doing so.
I arrived at the park just a bit before sunrise and couldn't wait for the gate to open. As soon as the gate was lifted I was on my way into the park. The main road that runs the length of the park is about 8 miles long. It is just one, long, very straight road running along the barrier island. My first thought was how on earth am I going to find a tiny fox along all of this open road. I began slowly driving along keeping a look out on both sides for any sight of a fox. At one point I thought I saw something tiny very far ahead. As I got closer I could tell it was what I was looking for, a beautiful Red Fox!
When I first pulled up to a small parking lot nearby I expected the fox to move away and be shy. The exact opposite is what happened. As soon as I got out and closed the door, the fox came running right over towards me, it was obvious it was looking for food. While I got my camera gear together and put on my heavy coat, hat and gloves the fox just stood there watching me, it was quite amusing.
I immediately started photographing this friendly fox and I think it soon realized I wasn't going to feed it so it quickly bored of me. It was a very cold morning and I had not seen another person or car yet that morning. The fox got tired and decided to lay down on the warm road. I got a few nice photos of it laying there but I was hoping for a setting a bit more natural than a paved road. I decided to walk down a trail a little bit and sure enough the fox followed along.
I found a nice open area and sat on the ground and patiently waited to see if the fox would come near. This beautiful Red Fox did not disappoint. It walked around me, stared right at me, came very close to me, walked away for a bit and then returned. I had the pleasure of hanging out with this wild, yet friendly fox for well over an hour. Just me and the fox all morning long. It was an experience I will certainly never forget. I was able to get very close portraits, then put on a wild angle lens to photograph the fox in its environment. It was a nature photographer's dream.
I finally decided to give the fox and myself a break and I headed off to see what else I could find. I drove to the end of the park mostly to familiarize myself with the location then I decided to call it a day. On my way back out the fox was still along the road. I could not resist stopping again for another 10-15 minutes. This was obviously not the most challenging of wild subjects I have photographed but it was a wonderful experience anyway.