| 04/07/2020 | Whale & Wildlife Tour Operators |   

The Red Foxes of San Juan Island

The first thing to remember about the charismatic foxes is they are wild. Show them respect and adhere to a strict code of conduct. Have plans in place for how to view the foxes, prior to heading out. Sightings are incredibly exciting and rewarding, and, to make sure you have the perfect plan in place, it's important to begin by reviewing some guidelines as well as having realistic expectations.


  • Do not approach any wildlife within 75 feet.
  • Do not feed wildlife.
  • Discourage close encounters with animals. It is your responsibility to get out of the animal’s space.
  • Mind signs stating guidelines and always listen to the park ranger on duty.
  • Use park/public lands restrooms.
  • Don't bring dogs into the field.


Foxes were introduced to the San Juan Islands to help control European rabbits, which are another introduced species. They do eat their fair share of rabbits, but can also be seen hunting other rodents, snakes, and even large insects. Foxes can be seen in a wide variety of habitats including forests and beaches. 


You’ve probably seen many photographs across social media and heard tales of how easy it is to find these foxes. A quick reminder: most of the photographs you have seen are taken by individuals using professional photography equipment. High-quality cameras with ultra-zoom lenses allow photographers to zoom in, well beyond 75 feet, and then crop the final image even further. It’s important to mind signs re-stating guidelines, and you may also notice two orange cones separated by 75 feet to show the required wildlife distance. It is unrealistic to expect to get close enough to a fox to take a photograph with a cellphone unless you blatantly encroach upon their space.

Help keep the foxes healthy

Although the local foxes come in a variety of colors including brown, black, silver, and orange, they are all actually part of the same species called the red fox, Vulpes vulpes. Regardless of the color of their fur, all morphs have a distinct white tip to their bushy tails.  Red foxes are active year-round, and while the parents go off to hunt, the young ones can be seen exploring, napping, or play-fighting with each other. There's always a flurry of activity when the parents return with a meal, too.

It's very important to refrain from feeding the foxes. They have an abundance of prey here, and creating a dependence on human hand-outs is dangerous both for people and the foxes. During the winter the foxes look very fat and furry, while in the summer they shed their thicker coat and can look quite skinny. This leads some observers to think they are starving, but it's normal for them to have a more slender look in the summer months.

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San Juan Islands Visitors Bureau
1-888-468-3701 | (360) 378-9551
P.O. Box 1330, Friday Harbor, Washington 98250
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