Stranded fox rescued from iceberg by fishermen who fed him Vienna sausages

An Arctic fox generally isn't part of a crab fishing boat's bycatch, but one crew from southern Labrador managed just that last week.

Crew nursed the skittish, bedraggled critter back to health before setting him free back on land

This stranded Arctic fox was rescued by a crab fishing crew from St. Lewis, N.L. (Submitted by Alan Russell)

An Arctic fox generally isn't part of a crab fishing boat's bycatch, but one crew from southern Labrador managed just that last week.

Alan Russell of St. Lewis said his ship was about seven kilometres offshore when they spotted something on a nearby iceberg.

"We seen something on the ice. Wasn't sure what it was," Russell told CBC's Labrador Morning. "So we got up closer to it. It was a little fox, Arctic fox. And he wasn't very big. He was soaking wet, and the gulls was trying to pick at him."

The fox wouldn't come near the fishermen, so they knocked the ice pan into the water and fished him out with a net. (Submitted by Alan Russell)

The crew tried to pull him from the mushroom-shaped iceberg tip, but the skittish fox wouldn't let them close. So they used the boat to knock the ice pan down and fished the fox from the water with a net.

"He was in pretty hard shape because it was so cold in the water," said Russell.

Once aboard, the fox — which the crew put in a plastic tote pan — wouldn't eat. But when the ship stopped in Pinsent's Arm for supplies, the crew put some sawdust in the pan to help him dry out.

More importantly, they were able to get him to eat: Vienna sausages.

When the crew brought him on board, the fox was nervous and wouldn't eat. (Submitted by Alan Russell)

"He likes them," said Russell.

The crew brought him to port in William's Harbour, where they have been fishing out of, and kept feeding him for a couple of days before letting him go.

"He wasn't aggressive at all," Russell said. "After a while, when he was coming around, he liked us more, because we were feeding him. And he didn't mind us after."

Russell said he has never seen an animal like that so far from shore. He figures the fox was probably looking for food on solid sea ice and then got caught when it broke up.

"He probably only had another day or so on the ice floe, or it would have foundered," he said. "And the way that the wind was, the ice was probably never going to go back into land. He's a pretty lucky guy."

Once the fox dried out and had some food, he lost his fear of the fishing crew. (Submitted by Alan Russell)

Russell said that when they last saw the fox, it was happy to be exploring some old dog houses in William's Harbour, a community that was resettled in 2017.

"He looks a lot healthier now. He's running around everywhere, so he should be pretty good to go now."

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

With files from Labrador Morning.