You’ve probably heard of Juniper Fox. With her nearly 3 million Instagram fans and personal line of products that include T-shirts, pins, and stickers, not to mention her very own celebrity bio, Juniper: The Happiest Fox, she might be the most famous and sought-after red fox in existence. She even has a full-time personal assistant, Jessika Coker, who manages her social media and various business ventures and also feeds her and her brethren every single day. Because Juniper is too in demand to answer press queries and probably busy lying on her back loudly howling, Coker kindly stepped in to answer the following penetrating questions.
Enchanted Living: How did you come to be Juniper’s owner/caretaker/mama?
Jessika Coker: Juniper came from a small family-owned farm where they had a litter of ranched fox kits. Ranched foxes are descended from animals used in the fur trade. They’re not considered wild animals because of the differences in their genetic makeup, and for those born in captivity their options are usually to become a pet or to be pelted for their fur. This family was looking for homes for Juniper and her siblings. When I saw they needed a home, I felt inclined to take one, since I knew how to care for them from past experience at wildlife centers.
EL: What are the joys and challenges with her?
JC: Juniper is quite a character and never fails to bring a smile to my face. She is extremely loving, and we have a bond beyond what I have ever had with a dog or cat. Foxes are very outwardly emotional animals and that can be both a good and bad thing. When she’s happy it’s blatant—it’s all over her face. She smiles, makes cooing sounds, wags her tail, and wants to be smothered with love and affection. When she’s upset it’s just as apparent. She will scream at the top of her lungs if the other foxes are bothering her; you can almost look at her and see her brows furrowed from frustration. Being such an emotional animal presents its challenges. With the foxes it’s impossible to make them do something they do not want to do, and any disturbance to their normal routine can throw them off for days. They’re not conventional pets, and the level of destruction they can cause to a home is ghastly. They’re loud, rambunctious, and smelly. Something most people don’t know is that fox urine is so pungent, it’s often used as scent cover for hunters! Having that smell in the house means constant cleaning and candles.
EL: Can you tell us a few of your funniest stories? Surely you have a ton!
JC: There are so many memories that I hold close to my heart. One of my favorites is when I was traveling for a few days and left the foxes in my brother’s care while I was away. Foxes tend to scent-mark their favorite objects by peeing on them, so upon my return Juniper was so excited to see me that she climbed on top of my head and immediately peed on me. Totally disgusting I know, but that’s real fox love!
EL: When did you start Juniper’s Instagram account?
JC: I originally started it as a way to keep up with her progress and share her daily life with my personal friends and family. Almost a year later, I posted a video of her that went viral, and I started getting so many questions about her story, her life, and her care. I felt morally responsible to begin educating people about the difficulties I faced raising her, as well as showing that foxes have a sweet and loving nature that not many people get to witness. I think now, after four years, I’ve found a good balance between the two, and I feel extremely lucky to have such a large platform to be able to educate the public about the care of not only foxes but so many other animals.
EL: How has fame affected Juniper?
JC: Well, she’s a star baby.
EL: Does she enjoy dressing up in flower crowns and the like?
JC: Juniper doesn’t mind being dressed, especially if there’s a little bribe involved. I typically put only a little hat on her or maybe a jacket here and there for a photo and purely for a quick giggle. Other than for the quick picture, she doesn’t wear clothes and prefers to flaunt the beautiful coat Mother Nature gave her.
EL: Can you tell us about Fig? He came along later, right?
JC: I took in Fig when Juniper was two years old. She had a rough spring and was troubled with a false pregnancy. I’ve always wanted to give her the best life that I could, and when I saw that a young fox kit had been saved from a fur farm, I thought this would be the perfect opportunity to give Juniper the baby that her instincts were begging for. Fig was born on chicken wire, which cut his foot at a very young age. This cut grew into a bacterial infection, which caused him to lose his foot and many of his digits on all his remaining feet. He was also born with a genetic abnormality to his left eye, which left him blind in that eye. He went through a lot as a baby, but once he came to our home, Juniper immediately began caring for him as if he were her own. In the wild, red foxes will adopt orphaned foxes and raise them with their own young, so this was something incredibly beautiful to witness in my own home. Fig has grown up to be the most loving animal in the house. A gentle soul with a heart of gold.
EL: What about the rest of your menagerie?
JC: After Juniper’s platform started to expand and we began to make money from sponsorships, I took it as an opportunity to help more animals along the way. We had the support of so many people, it seemed like a waste not to use that support to grow a sanctuary. Over the past three years we’ve taken in everything from puppies to opossums, nursed them back to health and found them homes—whether with us or another family, or back into the wild where they can live the life they always deserved.
EL: What can you tell our readers about having a fox at home?
JC: Living with an array of exotic animals is not always easy. Most of the animals must be kept separated from each other. Most of the animals we have here are also nocturnal, which makes sleeping difficult sometimes. They all require specialized diets. We don’t use any commercial pet food here; everything we feed is freshly made in house, which can be expensive. I think many people take in exotic animals because of the novelty of having an unusual animal, but they do not see the trials of caring for that animal before purchasing them. Most exotic pets are not trusting; they do not always want to be handled or shown off. There are also licenses involved for many species, and you can almost never board them if you need to travel —they have to go to a specialized vet, and they need expensive enclosures. And these are just some of the factors that make them “difficult” to house. When taking home any animal, it’s important to do your research on that animal’s needs.
EL: How can we help support foxes?
JC: If people would like to help support the foxes or any of the rescuers here, they’re welcome to subscribe and follow our social media. We’re currently working on our nonprofit paperwork to become a functioning sanctuary for animals in need.
EL: Can you tell us a bit more about who you are?
JC: I’m just your average twenty-eight-year-old girl, with the exception of having a handful of unique animals. My life revolves around wildlife, art, and nature. I grew up just south of Atlanta but moved to Florida a few years ago and have been aiming to build my wildlife sanctuary ever since. I’ve always been enamored with animals. From a young age I’d bring home small animals I found in the garden and beg my mother to let me keep them and care for them. Of course, she would always have me take them back outside where they belong, but every animal I found felt like a gift. They still do. I feel extremely fortunate that my days are filled with fur and scales. I’m living a life that I only ever dreamed of, and each day I wake up more thankful than the last.