Arts & Culture

The Tame Fox Folks Are Wild About

A fox with a memorable mug finds love in a Florida home

Photo: Courtesy of @juniperfoxx

Jimmy Buffett has his Parrotheads. Beyoncé, her BeyHive. And Juniper—a domesticated fox who lives in Pensacola, Florida—has Snagglenation.

The name comes from Juniper’s underbite, which causes her bottom canine tooth to float up over her muzzle like an iceberg. That crooked smile is just one of the many adorable reasons Snagglenation—including Juniper’s 2.2 million fans on Instagram—follows her day-to-day life with her owner, Jessika Coker, who on March 27 will release the book Juniper: The Happiest Fox to expand on their story.

Juniper came from a litter of “domestic fur-bearing animals”—foxes who over the generations had become tamed, for reasons often associated with the fur trade. That means the foxes were friendlier—more “dog-like”—and too reliant on humans to be released to the wild.

Courtesy of Chronicle books

Coker grew up nursing hurt animals and volunteering in rescue shelters and zoos, and she began working with foxes and other wildlife thanks to a job at a sanctuary. She dedicates the book to her grandmothers, one of whom helped raise her; the other, “has an affinity for animals the same way that I do,” says Coker. “I know my tenderness for living things came from her.”

Courtesy of chronicle books

She adopted Juniper from a farm that rehomed animals—ones either from fur farms or from homes that couldn’t care for them—and then their adventures began. Juniper fell in love with Coker’s Malamute mix, Moose, and eventually they were joined by another fox, Fig, whom Juniper mothers. Juniper began “painting” watercolors with her paws, and the artwork has been requested by fans the world over.

Courtesy of chronicle books

The menagerie’s photos on Instagram are heart-achingly cute, and over the years Snagglenation has returned the love. In messages, Coker writes in the book, fans “told me that seeing her happy face had helped them fight through their depression and anxiety, and that she made their days a little bit brighter and easier to bear … She had always done the same for me; it was nearly impossible to have a bad day with Juniper around.” But Coker is also frank about Juniper’s wild side. She trashed the couch by turning it into her den. She hid a fish that rotted under a carpet corner, and all manner of food everywhere else. She peed on anything she could to mark her territory.

Courtesy of chronicle books

“Every spring, whenever foxes are born,” Coker says, “people will message me and say, ‘Hey, I found this fox, I want to keep it.’ But not only is it going to be difficult for you to do that, it’s actually illegal for you to keep animals that you find in the wild. You have to give them to a licensed rehabilitator.”

Coker then takes the time to put them in touch with someone in their area, and she plans to open her own small sanctuary soon. Coming next?

“I’m actually thinking about taking in another fox this spring.”