Remote Arctic tundra is a place where polar bears are often the star of the show. To the delight of guests on Polar Bear Migration Fly-In Safari in November 2017, a furry Arctic fox stole the spotlight. While out taking photos of sea ice, our very own Dave Briggs, Senior Expedition Leader at Arctic Kingdom had a rare, up-close and personal encounter with this often-skittish animal. A wildlife moment so special Briggs called it “magical”!
Just a short flight north of Churchill, Manitoba, and near Arviat, Nunavut, this safari is located on the west coast of Hudson Bay. Our Polar Bear Cabins are located on remote tundra in an area referred to as “polar bear alley”. In October and November polar bears can be seen roaming the coast waiting for the freeze up. It’s no surprise that guests travel here with hopes of seeing polar bears up-close. While polar bears will continue to be a fan favourite, guests often leave with a newfound love for Arctic fox.
Arctic fox, often solitary animals, are also known for their cheeky behavior, often called the “clowns of the tundra.” It isn’t often that people get to see them this up close. This fox, affectionately named “Spot” by the group, for the grey marking on his hind quarters, quickly became a highlight of this trip.
Watch this unbelievable Arctic fox encounter captured on video by Dave Briggs:
The mounds of kelp near the sea ice create ideal places for wildlife to seek refuge from strong winds and blowing snow. Briggs recounts his run-in with Spot, “to my amazement he had simply curled up and was resting not more than 5 feet away.”
Spot was taking a little shelter from the gusting wind. “As I continued to take pictures he would raise his head occasionally,” Briggs tells, “before digging his nose back into the warmth of his beautiful white fur.”
The Arctic fox doesn’t hibernate so in the winter it relies on its winter coat, which is the warmest of any animal found in the Arctic. In fact it takes -70°C (-94°F) before they begin to shiver.
After a short while Spot became curious and decided to approach, seen in the video. The whole encounter lasted about half an hour.
“The most awesome part of the entire encounter for myself was when he casually returned to his nap after seeing what I was all about,” continues Briggs, “That’s what I love!”
Even while the group was out looking for other animals they had the pleasure of Spots company, which made for an unforgettable experience. As Briggs describes it, “it wasn’t uncommon for Spot to suddenly appear when we were out on walks with our guests.”
“Wild animals have an innate sense of when to trust,” says Briggs, “They are also very in tune with their environment and constantly learning from their experiences.”
Moments like this exceed any hopes for wildlife sightings, even by veteran guides like Briggs. “It is not common,” he says. “When it does happen it’s magical and fills me with joy.”
Get your chance to experience Arctic fox on Polar Bear Migration Fly-In Safari.
By: Mat Whitelaw