On an East Coast morning clouded with freezing rain, Robert Legere, a freelance artist recently moved into his lakeside home in Hammonds Plains, Nova Scotia, looked out his back window to see two dark animals padding across the frozen sheet of Thompsons Pond. At first sight, their dark fur and broad bodies made them look like coyotes, but it was their tails that betrayed them. “Their tails definitely show that they were foxes,” Legere says. “You can see at the end of the tail they do have a little white tuft.”
Although foxes are common in Nova Scotia, this was the first time Legere had seen them around his place, and they didn’t have their typical red coats. According to the Nova Scotia Department of Lands and Forestry website, foxes have three colour phases, the most common being the red phase, occurring in up to 75 per cent of Canadian foxes. But there is also the cross phase, a dark cross of fur covering the shoulders, and the silver phase—most likely what Legere saw—a black fox with white or silver-tipped guard hairs.
Unfazed by the freezing rain, the foxes darted back and forth, playing with a ball they’d found on the ice. “It was really cute when they found the ball out there because they just looked like a couple of dogs playing with the ball. One of them trying to get it from the other one. He steals it from him and runs.”
Legere filmed the video from his back deck before moving inside to his living room with his two Bengal cats as the foxes investigated his Adirondack chairs. Although foxes have adapted to the urban spread of humans, they’re typically active at dawn and dusk, travelling up to eight kilometres in a night to search for food. So, it was strange to see the animals out for a mid-morning romp, especially in such an exposed area. “There’s a lot of bald eagles in the area. I’d assume that’d be dangerous to be exposed like that, but they were pretty comfortable,” Legere says.
On top of bald eagles, foxes are also at risk of being attacked by coyotes, cougars, and lynx. But on that day, the two foxes had little to worry about. Legere watched for over an hour as they chased one another back and forth across the ice. After a few final games of tag, the foxes wandered off, leaving Legere to marvel over the uncommon site.
“It’s a great view,” he says of his new lakeside home.