An industry around habituated wildlife, specifically red foxes, is growing on San Juan Island.
Photographers referred to by locals as the “Foxerazzi” are arriving on the island in large groups of around 20. The groups encircle fox dens at the height of kitting season in the hopes of snagging the perfect shot, but that pursuit has a price.
At the start of this past spring, there were six fox kits living at Cattle Point Nature Preserve. By the end of the season, all six were dead.
The National Park Service started taking note after groups began showing up at American Camp National Monument. Concerned by what he saw, Ranger Cyrus Forman started putting up signs and sharing educational material.
“I would hear stories from concerned visitors about witnessing people feeding and thus baiting foxes,” said Forman. “When foxes become too familiar with humans and become dependent on humans as a potential food source, that is a death sentence.”
According to Amy Nesler, the San Juan Island Visitor’s Bureau has been monitoring the situation too.
“Fox photography has really become this microcosm of tourism in the San Juans,” said Nesler.
She believes interest in these animals began to increase in 2016, after a video went viral on YouTube. In the footage we see a fox and eagle competing for resources on the San Juan Island prairie.
“It was suddenly like there were people everywhere,” said Nesler.
Forman agrees. He says the peak in interest began to drive an increase in visitation they were not prepared for.
Online, we found one group charging $1,400 and another offering an all-inclusive fox photography excursion for over $3,500.