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Close call for Arctic fox stranded on ice pan

After the Arctic fox warmed up on some sawdust, it was willing to accept food and water from its rescuers. - Photo contributed by Alan Russell
After the Arctic fox warmed up on some sawdust, it was willing to accept food and water from its rescuers. - Photo contributed by Alan Russell

St. Lewis fisherman doesn’t regret carrying out the rescue

ST. LEWIS, N.L. — Alan Russell, who lives in St. Lewis and fishes from Williams Harbour, had a unique experience recently — rescuing a starving Arctic fox from a floating ice pan.

“We were very lucky to have seen the fox, if it wasn’t for my Dad, which is the skipper on our boat, I don’t think we’d see him at all,” Russell said. “At first we were in disbelief and thought it was a young seal, but it was too late in the year for seals to be having their pups.” 

An Arctic fox, stranded on the ice pan before its rescue, had no water or food and was being harassed by gulls. - Photo contributed by Alan Russell
An Arctic fox, stranded on the ice pan before its rescue, had no water or food and was being harassed by gulls. - Photo contributed by Alan Russell

The crew immediately became concerned because the fox was not doing very well.

“We decided to help the poor little guy right away, he was in hard shape, gulls were picking at him waiting for him to die. He had nowhere to go being four miles off land on a mushroom shaped ice pan,” Russell said. “He couldn’t stay hydrated because the ice was sea ice, meaning it’s mainly salt.”

They tried to rescue the fox using a long dip net but it didn’t work because the fox was too frightened to get close to the net. So they decided to ram the ice with their boat until the ice broke and the fox fell into the water. They then hauled the animal aboard with the dip net.

The weak and frightened fox staggered to the corner of the boat. The crew tried to give him food and water but he wouldn’t take it. They feared he would not survive, so they tried something else.

“We were on the way in to get bait and ice at the time and when we got in we got a tope pan with some sawdust in it so he can warm up and dry off,” Russell said. “He slept for hours after that, eventually he ate some sausages and drank a bit of water.”

They had the Arctic fox on board for that full day and night before releasing him back on land.

“I feel good about the whole thing and I’m the sure the little fox feels the same way,” Russell said, “I would definitely do it again but I may never see that in my lifetime again. It was a pretty rare sight to capture in person.”

 

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