January is mid-mating season for foxes.
Foxes hold territories, the size of which depends on the habitat’s resources; in town a fox’s territory can be as small as a quarter of a square kilometre but in the open spaces of Salisbury Plain it could be forty square kilometres The park is balanced between urban and rural, not quite either, a hunting ground for at least one local vulpine family group.
A fox family group usually consists of a pair, a dog and a vixen, and their cubs. In areas where foxes are not dispersed by hunting or trapping, and where there is a plentiful supply of food, a family group also may contain several non-breeding adults.
Foxes mate between December and February; established pairings are reinforced and new ones made in sometimes very noisy courtships. Foxes are usually silent creatures but at this time of year, males bark in a distinctive three yips:
Dog fox barking; audio from angelfire.com
and the vixens make spine-chilling screams, the stuff of horror movies and bad dreams:
Vixen screaming: audio from angelfire.com
Usually only one vixen in the family group breeds; she has a litter of four of five cubs in the spring. The earth in which the cubs are born may be dug by the family, or they may enlarge a rabbit burrow or use holes made by other animals. In urban areas, cubs are often born under garden sheds; a garden is usually as safe a space for the vixen’s offspring as it is for yours.
fox cubs by Ray Bird (CC BY-SA 2.0)
At about four weeks old, usually in late April or early May, cubs begin to come out into the open. This is the best time to see foxes; the adults are too busy to supervise and the cubs are boisterous and unafraid.
As always, we will keep watch in the park but if you know of a pair of foxes settling into your neighbourhood, please tell us.
Header picture: Fox by Peter Trimming (CC BY 2.0)
This post was first published in January of 2020
I think foxes breed in the fields behind Blind Lane. We used to feed them and their young in our garden but being near the Lambrok this encouraged several rats, so we had to stop. You would think the foxes would eat the rats but they seemed to prefer our food!
I believe a lady in mid Blind Lane feeds foxes (and inevitably also cats) at the field edge opposite her home.