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Wild Location: The Mountains of Dovre
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Wildlife photographer, ROGER BRENDHAGEN, describes capturing his dream image of an Arctic fox on location in Norway.

The first time I saw the Arctic fox was a moment of magic. Fifteen years later, it still feels magical to see these animals in their element; in the Norwegian Mountains. I spent a lot of time at the mountains of Dovre, looking for musk oxen and the Arctic foxes, but there are also many other species that make this part of Norway one of my favourite areas of Nordic nature...

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...When it is a good year for the rodents, there are also a high number of different owl species and other birds of prey and, at the wetland of Fokstumyra, it is the moose that takes over after the birds have finished with their nesting.

Keeping your distance
It’s a dilemma to photograph the Artic fox; as a photographer you want to get as close as possible, but the foxes want us as far away as possible. Because of this, it becomes an important decision for us photographers to determine how close, and how much time, we spend near the fox dens.

At several of the most famous dens sites, there have been a large number of nature photographers who have stayed in their tent, only meters from the dens, spending several days in the same area. Therefore, it is important to inform one another about where the boundary lies between observing them and invading their space. I think it's better to come up with meaningful advice, rather than pointing the finger and blaming social media.

Low perspective - high pulse
Some of the Arctic fox habitats that I have visited are a few hours walk from the nearest car park and, since I like to have a low perspective, I leave my tripod in the car for four reasons;

• The photo bag is heavy enough as it is
• I am looking for a low perspective
• If I was to stand on the mountain plateau with a tripod, I would be visible to other mountain hikers, and the chance of a visit from hikers is increasing
• So that the Arctic foxes will not see me. This is one of the main reasons and why I use a camouflage called Jervenduken, a Norwegian brand which is waterproof, windproof and has good insulation.

September 19th, 19:52

I will always remember this date. Inside my head there are many pictures, some of them I have managed to take and others I have yet to fulfil. After ten years of waiting, I finally got my reward. The picture I was dreaming about was the Arctic fox under the full moon, or silhouetted in it.

I haven’t been to the mountains of Dovre every full moon, but there have been many hit-and-miss trips in the ten years that I've tried. On some occasions the weather forecast reported good conditions with a clear sky, but after driving 400 kilometres I was often greeted with low cloud and foggy weather. However, most of the time the conditions were great - but the foxes were missing.

Listed

The Arctic fox was protected in Norway as early as 1930 but, despite this, they didn’t manage to rise in numbers. The last known Arctic fox born in the wild at the mountain of Dovre was in 1994 and, since the late ninties, they were considered extinct in the area.

Since 2005, NINA (The Norwegian Institute for Nature Research) has been running a breeding station for the Arctic fox at the mountain plateau called Sæterfjellet, south of Oppdal, in Norway. Animals from several of the small, isolated litters of Arctic foxes in Norway and Sweden were caught for breeding.

NINA is Norway’s leading institution for applied ecological research, with broad-based expertise on the genetics, population, species, ecosystem and landscape level, in terrestrial, freshwater and coastal marine environments.

The breeding project has given results, both on Dovre and other mountain regions in Norway and Sweden. At the beginning of the project, the first fifteen puppies were released in Dovrefjell in 2007 and, in the following two years, a further thirty-six puppies were added to the mountain area.

In 2017, there were forty registered breeding Arctic foxes in Norway and a total of seventy-one in Scandinavia. The minimum stock in Norway, based on DNA, was estimated at 128-135 in the winter of 2016/17. By 2017, thirty-one youngsters were documented in Sweden, but it is still a far cry from 2015, when there were eighty-seven puppies, according to www.nina.no

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About Author

Roger Brendhagen

Award-winning nature photographer from Norway, now living in Sweden. Roger holds courses and workshops in macro and nature photography. The forests, wildlife, mountains, rivers and valleys in the province of Hedemark, where he lives, play a major role in Roger’s choice of photographic themes.

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