The ocean, the original home of earth’s animal life, has creatures of every size and type. It’s an exciting place to explore. This variety of animals and plants must survive together. However, one creature which is generally not part of the ocean life was spotted out at sea.
4 miles away from the shore, Mallory Harrigan and her boyfriend, Cliff Russell, spotted a mushroom-shaped iceberg drifting out to sea and an unwitting passenger stranded atop it while they were aboard the crab-fishing boat, The Northern Swan. They first thought it was a baby seal. However, upon closer inspection, they realized it was a starving and terrified Arctic fox clinging to the teetering iceberg.
The Arctic fox is a native to Labrador and occasionally arrives on the island via pack during winter and spring. They prefer barren lands where snow is hard and shallow as well as around the tops of ponds or river banks. Arctic foxes often follow polar bears to scavenge on seal kill remains. They will eat the remains of seals and seal pups if stranded on an ice floe at sea.
“We saw something on the ice. Wasn’t sure what it was. So we got up close to it. It was a little fox, Arctic fox. And he wasn’t very big. He was soaking wet, and the gulls were trying to pick at him.”
The fishermen figured the only chance it had for survival was for them to rescue the critter and deliver it to land. So they lured the frightened animal onto their boat and tried to pull him from the iceberg tip, but the skittish fox wouldn’t let them close. So they used the boat to knock the ice pan down and scooped the animal up from the cold water with a net.
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 was in pretty hard shape because it was so cold in the water,” said Russell. “It had probably got stuck out there looking for a meal.”
“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 the land. He’s a pretty lucky guy.”
Once aboard, the fox which the crew put in a plastic tote pan wouldn’t eat the bread and crackers they initially offered. But when the ship stopped in Pinsent’s Arm for supplies, they were finally able to get the fox to succumb to another treat – a tin of Vienna sausages.
“We gave him chips and crackers, but he didn’t want anything until he woke up and we fed him a tin of Vienna sausages. He likes them,” said Russell.
The crew brought him to port in a dog house on William’s Harbour, where they have been fishing out of and kept feeding him for a couple of days before releasing it back into its natural habitat.