Nick came from a poor background living with his mother (his father is never seen or mentioned). As a child, Nick had a dream of joining the local Junior Ranger Scouts, for the goal of receiving genuine acceptance. When he was eight or nine years old, his mother scraped up enough money to buy a brand new scout uniform, allowing him the opportunity to join the division.
Nick came from a poor background living with his mother (his father is never seen or mentioned). As a child, Nick had a dream of joining the local Junior Ranger Scouts, for the goal of receiving genuine acceptance. When he was eight or nine years old, his mother scraped up enough money to buy a brand new scout uniform, allowing him the opportunity to join the division. Though he was the only predator there, the only fox, Nick attended his initiation with confidence and zeal but unknowingly walked into a trap. The "initiation" turned out to be a cruel prank and Nick was ridiculed, brutally beaten and muzzled by the other scouts for being a fox (as foxes are considered among the vilest and untrustworthy species of mammals in the Zootopia world). After running outside to escape his tormentors, Nick broke down in tears, developing a triggering fear of muzzles and dislike towards preys and specist mammals. From that moment forward, Nick vowed to never expose his true vulnerability to others, resulting in the fox presenting himself as stoic and unreachable.
As another result of this experience, Nick declared that if the world viewed foxes as nothing more than vile and untrustworthy scoundrels, he should not only accept it but embrace it, subsequently doing so by becoming a successful con artist. During his teenage years, Nick was sent to juvenile detention, where he met a quick-tempered fennec fox named Finnick. Though the two were initially rival con-artists, they became best friends and business partners at adulthood.
At some point during his status as a con artist, Nick fell in with Mr. Big, a feared arctic shrew crime boss, developing a stable partnership with him. Mr. Big liked and trusted the fox, welcoming him into his home and even introducing him to his beloved grandmother, whose cannoli they dined on when Mr. Big allowed Nick to stay for dinner. However, Nick later took advantage of Big's trust by selling him a very expensive wool rug secretly made from the fur of a skunk's rear end. Feeling betrayed and disrespected, Mr. Big turned Nick away, threatening to kill him if they ever met again.
By the start of the film, Nick appears to be well-off, claiming to have made $200 on a daily basis since the age of twelve (though the accuracy of these claims is questionable). He often works and splits the day's earnings with Finnick.