Photographer Ian Murray mourns 'nurturing, gentle' fox from prize-winning photo

A red fox which met its end at the side of a dirt road in Cumberland County this week is being mourned by a local wildlife photographer.

Murray's photo of the fox and a kit won him first prize in an American wildlife photography contest in 2015

Nova Scotia photographer Ian Murray's image of the red fox and its kit won first place in an American wildlife photography contest in 2015. (Courtesy Ian Murray)

A red fox which met its end at the side of a dirt road in Cumberland County this week is being mourned by a local wildlife photographer.

Ian Murray of Wallace River, N.S., has been photographing the fox, who he affectionately referred to as Mom, for more than three years.

Every year, Murray watched as Mom tenderly cared for a new litter of kits, assuming the fox was the mother. It wasn't until a few months ago that Murray realized Mom was actually the dad all along.

"This fox did all of the raising of the babies, it brought the food, it played with them, it was so nurturing, it was so kind and gentle with the babies, it would lay them down and pick ticks off them and groom them and play with them and teach them to hunt," Murray said.

"Mom" the fox leaves behind a litter of 3½-month-old kits. (Ian Murray/Wallace River Photography)

"All of the traits that you would put in a good female mother fox. So we call him 'Mom' for the first three years, not knowing any different."

In 2015, a sweet moment between Mom and one of its kits won Murray first prize in the American National Wildlife Federation Photo Contest in the baby animals category, beating out 6,765 other entries from around the world.

"This fox has been just a joy to watch and take pictures of and watch raising the kits that she's had, or he's had, every year for the last three or four years. It's just a sad, sad shame that his end had to come this way," Murray said.

Murray's friend found the fox dead near the side of the road and buried it on his property. (Ian Murray/Wallace River Photography)

Earlier this week, Murray says the fox was hit by a car while carrying food back to its den. The fox was discovered by Murray's friend, the owner of the property where the foxes had their den, who took the animal and buried it on his land.

"It's a rural area where the foxes can hunt to their hearts' content, there is very little traffic and very few people and that's the ironic part of it all — that he got hit on a dirt road out in the middle of nowhere. It should be the safest place in the world for him."

Murray says his Wallace River Photography Facebook page has been flooded with hundreds of comments from people around North American who have also been touched by Mom's death.

"This fox has been just a joy to watch and take pictures of and watch raising the kits," Murray said. (Ian Murray/Wallace River Photography)

"It's almost a heartwarming feeling to know that so many people care about this," he said. "It's a wild animal and wild animals die and get hit by cars everyday and it's a sad thing, but people have reacted to this on my Facebook page and they've all commented in such a positive way and in a caring way, and that's such a good thing to hear."

Murray says he and his friends will continue to watch over the fox family, making sure the kits continue to be cared for and fed well — ready to do something if the mom doesn't "step it up."