Fox cubs

25 May 2017 | Posted in mammals
Fox cubs
fox cubs / Hugh Clarke

by Charlotte Owen

WildCall Officer

This year’s fox cubs are now starting to emerge from their dens to explore the world above ground. They were born in March and may have been moved by their mother between several different den sites to keep them safe and well fed. Urban vixens will often den under garden sheds and can squeeze through surprisingly small gaps, of less than 10cm, to reach a convenient sheltered spot. If there isn’t a ready-made home, vixens will dig out an extensive earth in well-drained soil, sometimes in a flowerbed, under tree roots or beneath a dense hedgerow. They don’t indulge in any creature comforts, and cubs are usually born onto bare earth without any bedding material. The average litter size is four or five cubs, which are born blind and deaf with a coat of short, black fur. They are completely reliant on their mother’s milk and warmth for the first two weeks of their lives, and she’ll rarely leave them unattended during this period. She, in turn, relies on the dog fox to hunt and bring food for her, and he is sometimes assisted by a number of non-breeding females, often daughters from previous years.

Fox cubs open their eyes and ears at two weeks and start crawling around the den, very wobbly at first but soon developing enough strength and coordination to frustrate their mother by wandering off in different directions. At four weeks, they start venturing outside the den but don’t go far. They are still a dark, chocolatey brown but are beginning to moult into their adult coat, and can look quite patchy.

By six weeks the transformation is complete and their short ears and snub noses have elongated into distinctively foxy faces. At this age, fox cubs are boisterous and bound about with their siblings, playing, chasing and wrestling just like typical puppies. Cubs living in close proximity to people often ‘steal’ things to play with including shoes, gardening gloves, laundry, golf balls and sponges. They soon grow out of this behaviour though, becoming increasingly self-sufficient throughout the summer months until they are almost indistinguishable from their parents by September.

Comments

  • 25 May 2017 15:05:42

    Lovely write up. You might enjoy my film “Foxed” that I created about two fox cubs growing up in my West Sussex Garden last summer…and my new clips on tiny fox tots emerging from the earth in my friend’s house…https://youtu.be/i4HHHVKmCDs
    Enjoy! And share the love for our little red friends! X

  • Phillip Ellis:

    26 May 2017 14:46:23

    You will not like me saying this but Foxes are becoming a nuisance with increasing numbers. They defecate and urinate around us and leave an awful smell. As far as I am concerned they are vermin and should be culled with no place in built up areas.
    They may come across as cuddly animals and that they are not!

  • Angy:

    26 May 2017 21:40:59

    Thank you for your efforts. I can hear them in the woods near me crashing about

  • Fiona Mosley:

    27 May 2017 16:32:21

    In my experience it is the mother who steals the shoes, gloves etc for the cubs to play with. We’ve caught her “red handed” twice!
    This year, we found half a dead fox cub in our garden. Does anyone know how this might have happened? I left my trail camera out near the corpse, and caught the vixen dragging the carcass away.

  • Fiona Mosley:

    27 May 2017 18:11:35

    In my experience it is the mother who steals the shoes, gloves etc for the cubs to play with. We’ve caught her “red handed” twice!
    This year, we found half a dead fox cub in our garden. Does anyone know how this might have happened? I left my trail camera out near the corpse, and caught the vixen dragging the carcass away.

  • Louise Squire:

    31 May 2017 00:33:29

    I put raw chicken wings out for the foxes, is this ok and what other food would be suitable to put out for them. ?

  • Beryl Ferrers-Guy:

    06 Jun 2017 15:27:12

    I’m afraid I cannot agree with the complainant that urban foxes are a nuisance – until the arrival of our vixen we had a serious rat problem. Within 2 weeks of her arrival the said problem completely disappeared. Also, a blind stray cat which was dumped into our area, was taken under this vixen’s wing to which end she brought the cat into my garden & let him eat half of the food I left for her. When I realised what was happening, I rescued the cat, took him to the vet & after a successful operation, he can now see & has been adopted by me. However, his vixen friend came daily to see him & they were often seen sleeping side by side in the afternoon sun. Sadly the vixen has moved away to another area, much to the cat’s chagrin – he spent a whole day & night searching for her but has now at last accepted her departure. I think perhaps, the nuisance in this case was the callous human who dumped the cat!

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