Foxes have adapted to life in urban and suburban areas. You might find a fox sleeping in your garden…
They are mostly nocturnal but not strictly and will come out and sunbathe on warm days and it is typical to see mum and cubs above ground in the springtime if you are lucky to have a den near you. They tend to live in family units. Some of the cubs - normally the female ones - may stay with their mum and help with the next year's cubs. (How gorgeous is that)?! The males will generally disperse to get their own territories.
Fox cubs are very small at birth. If found orphaned by members of the public, they are very often mistaken for new-born kittens.
The average weight of a new-born fox cub is around 100 grams.
Fox cubs start to move once their eyes have opened, normally after a couple of weeks. From as early as four weeks, fox cubs have been known to venture outside the den but remaining very close to it.
Fox cubs begin the weaning process from around three weeks old, while they are still underground in the den. The vixen will regurgitate food for them as a means of getting them to eat solid food while still giving milk. Around six weeks, when the cubs start to become much more active, alert, and inquisitive, they will spend longer outside the den during the day and will start to dig and catch small prey like worms and beetles.
In order to wean her cubs off milk, the vixen will often lay away from the cubs so that her teats aren’t easily accessible. She will go on regular hunting trips throughout the day, bringing back food, mainly small rodents….
(Speaking of ‘rodents’ - Rats & mice are brilliant but as in all things there must be balance & foxes hunt local rats and mice, maintaining a balance in numbers in the local eco system).
Foxes also love jam sandwiches!
Underneath all of their fur, foxes are about the same size as a house cat and weigh only 4.5kg, which isn’t so terrifying… Foxes are much more wary of us; they might live in our gardens but if they feel unsafe they will leave.
Foxes are very intelligent. If you cross paths with a fox, it will often stop to look at you. This can feel unnerving, but it’s part of their curious nature; foxes learn from their environment and adapt.
In cities and towns they will scavenge and even eat earthworms before hunting for mice and birds: it is easier to find a meal than fetch one.
Foxes are pretty lazy as well as smart and will find cheats where they can. Coming home to an up-turned bin might be a bit of a nuisance but foxes’ scavenging is beneficial to us. They dispose of waste, which would attract other animals…
The same traits and personalities that are revered in man’s best friend often go unnoticed in foxes. Like dogs, they are social and intelligent creatures with the capability to create strong bonds. They adore anything that could be a toy, sometimes rolling around like puppies, throwing the toy in the air just to catch it again. They are very animated, using expressions, postures and even scent to communicate. Foxes are well known for their vocal communication, but these notorious screams are not worrisome as it is simply how they speak with each other, only in a language that we don’t understand.
Next time you see a fox, adopt their trick and look at them with curiosity. Have you ever seen a fox playing in the park, running in woodlands, or crossing the road in front of you? They provide us with a vital link to nature and we are so fortunate they trust us enough to watch them up-close.
David Wembridge (mammal expert) points out that, “We might watch a documentary about African wild dogs or big cats and marvel at them, while another wild predator, just as remarkable, is on our doorstep.”
By Jess Cartwright & Sharon D Davies, with special thanks to David Wembridge at People’s Trust for Endangered Species for valuable insight on foxes.
For more information Living with Mammals, which records foxes and our other wild neighbours to inform conservation, starts on 29th March (www.ptes.org)