This baby fox playing with a leaf is your dose of cute for the day

June 11, 2015, 11:52 a.m.

Though it is an endangered species, the San Joaquin kit fox is often found in urban and suburban areas. Though it isn't an ideal situation for the species, it does make for great opportunities for photographers to sit at a distance and watch the antics of pups at a den as they grow up. This was the case with a family of kit foxes last year and photographer Donald Quintana. He was able to spend many hours watching a family of San Joaquin kit foxes, and came away with a great collection of images that illustrate their family life — including the playful nature of the pups.

Here, he photographed a pup that had been playing with a leaf and carrying it around. "It paused its play when a Red-tail Hawk landed in the branches in the tree above it," says Quintana. "When the Hawk called out, the kit stopped and looked up to see what was going on."

The San Joaquin kit fox has been listed as endangered since 1967 and its numbers continue to decline due to habitat loss. It is one of the most endangered species in California, with only around 7,000 individuals left. Some members of the species, however, are figuring out how to live at the fringes of urban habitat. The upside is that they are eking out a space for them to live and raise families. The downside is that they have access to human food sources, including junk food. A 2010 study showed that not only to the kit foxes take advantage of these available food sources, but that as a result, they have higher cholesterol levels than their rural counterparts.

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Jaymi Heimbuch is a writer and photographer at Mother Nature Network. Follow her on Twitter, Google+ and Facebook.