Wildlife & Nature to See in April : Foxes
Wildlife to See in April : Foxes
Spring is a time for new life, and I recommend April as a good time to look for red fox cubs.
If, like my father, you are lucky enough to share a garden with a fox (Vulpes vulpes), you may have already been privileged with evenings of action. (Or less privileged with lawns covered in droppings)
There are an estimated 30, 000 foxes roaming the UK’s streets. Urban foxes tend to be attracted to gardens with ponds, or where there are tempting rubbish bins to rummage through. This is one of their less popular behaviours, and one reason why many people are divided as to how welcome foxes are in the city.
The fox is one of the UK’s most easily identifiable animals, with its bushy red tail making up to a third of its body-length, and its large triangular ears. April sees the start of the moulting season, so a normally glorious coat may appear somewhat bedraggled. Their calls are also distinctive to the wildlife novice, as foxes make a strange crying often compared to a baby’s wail.
A member of the canid family, the fox is unusual in having vertically slit pupils, more like a cat than a dog, which it is suggested aids hunting in different light conditions. It has been argued that foxes use their facial whiskers for spatial awareness, in similar ways to cats. Foxes are generally crepuscular (morning and dusk) hunters, but like most city animals this can vary due to the effect of electric light and traffic. Foxes are opportunistic feeders and have been known to eat insects, small mammals, fruit, earthworms, berries, wild birds, and any scraps left by humans. Excellent climbing skills (another cat-like ability) mean gardens are easily accessible.
Around February vixens will have prepared dens, by digging into the earth in banks, or underneath sheds or trees. They are willing to utilise empty badger setts, and there have been recorded instances of foxes using one half of a sett, and badgers occupying the other. Foxes breed between December and February, the dog often bringing the vixen sustenance during her pregnancy, with cubs born around mid-March. A typical litter is usually four to six cubs strong. These will be weaned after seven to nine weeks, and are sexually mature within a year.
If your garden is blessed with fox cubs there’s a wide range of garden cameras, to catch the action without disturbing the family.
Most wildlife rescue centres stress that finding a cub alone during the daytime does not mean it has been abandoned, but is in fact part of the growing up process. If you are concerned about an uninjured lone cub, they recommend leaving it for twenty-four hours before contacting rescue services.
Of course, there are difficulties involved in sharing a garden with a family of foxes, especially for pet owners, but for a country of animal-lovers to be persecuting a creature partly dog-like, partly feline, seems a sad thing. Let us not forget, every garden was wilderness once upon a time. I for one admire any animal able to adapt to our urban lifestyles, and am more than happy to share garden space with our furry-tailed friend.
For fox-haters I would recommend the charming French film, The Fox and the Child, which might help raise sympathy in the staunchest enemy.
The scenery is beautiful, the scripting tender and touching, and it’s a film for the kids to share.