Fox Cubs being adopted?

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Strike

Member
Hi, has anyone seen the behavior I am witnessing?
3 nights ago I shot 1 mature dog fox 60m or so from what turned out to be a den with 4 surviving cubs, I also shot the Vixen and a cub on the spoil heap outside the den she was full of milk, actually dripping with milk.
2 days later I returned as the owner had been let down by his friend with terriers, and failed to sort the remaining cubs.
I saw 4 cubs all healthy playing around the entrance. I left intending to return with my .22 rimfire. In the meantime I had a call saying a mature fox had been seen leaving the den late afternoon.
That night I returned with the rimfire and .243, 30 mins later I saw a mature fox on the spoil heap outside the den. To the left of the den 40m or so I saw another fox walking towards the den..
I shot that fox first, the Fox on the den ran 30m up the bank, stopped, and I shot that one.
I found the first was an immature dog and the second on the spoil outside the den was a Vixen. She was either just coming into milk, just fed the cubs, or drying up.
I am going to wait 2 days and check again.
Is it reasonable to assume all these foxes are related?
 

soulboy1957

Well-Known Member
Yes, fox family groups can be 4,,5 or 6, dominant vixen and dog, one of last years dogs and a couple of vixen helpers, who will take over if the dominants are killed.
 

Strike

Member
Thanks for the reply.
I had heard of a related Vixen helping out, bringing food in, I had not realised an extended family would help. Also how would a Vixen come into milk if it's not the mother?
 

Farmer Geddon

Well-Known Member
When I was a very young man & sympathetic to foxes I had an earth, 250 yards from the farmyard. The next year we had 20 duck taken, 5 guinea fowl, 3 geese, chickens & my sisters cat. I checked the earth at dusk & counted 13 cubs on the bank outside. It could have been the mother & 2 of her daughters with litters. I changed my attitude that day forever, killed the lot, but 1 vixen was out, she stood in the middle of the field screaming trying to call her young ones out. We never got her, & the next year the earth was opened up again, same for 4 years till they stopped coming. I learnt that if I got an active earth on the farm with cubs in, I'm too late. January February & March is THE time to get ruthless with them.
 

Farmer Geddon

Well-Known Member
Old Keeper was saying that the dominant vixen is the one with cubs, & I have never heard of more than 1 litter in an earth since then. I put it down to food availability, & they certainly made the most of the available food in my farmyard that year. Relatives will certainly help out with the hunting. I don't know if an animal can come into milk unless its given birth. Phantom pregnancy??
 
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soulboy1957

Well-Known Member
Running with the fox by David Mcdonald is a fascinating read if you can find a copy, guy did his degree on fox behaviour when everyone else was studying elephants etc, really good read and an incredible insight into fox behaviour.
 

old keeper

Well-Known Member
Strangely, I too once saw 13 cubs and three adults in a field near me where foxes were not to be shot. I spent a fair amount of time just watching them, and learned that the vixens treated all the youngsters as if they were their own.
I rather doubt that a vixen could quickly start lactating just because a neighbouring vixen with cubs had been killed, I suspect she too had cubs of her own.
The whole situation changes of course once the cubs are weaned as feeding them is relatively easy. As a rule, if cubs are really young and the vixen is killed they don't last very long at all.
As soulboy said, David Mcdonald's book is a very interesting read for anyone with an interest in foxes other than just shooting them.
 

Farmer Geddon

Well-Known Member
Dealing with fox cubs always makes me a bit sad. There was an earth in my neighbours wood that had the most magnificent stand of Foxgloves just behind the holes, to watch those cubs bickering & chasing each other round those flowers was a bit special. It was the only place in the wood that had foxgloves growing!
 

Klenchblaize

Well-Known Member
When I was a very young man & sympathetic to foxes I had an earth, 250 yards from the farmyard. The next year we had 20 duck taken, 5 guinea fowl, 3 geese, chickens & my sisters cat. I checked the earth at dusk & counted 13 cubs on the bank outside. It could have been the mother & 2 of her daughters with litters. I changed my attitude that day forever, killed the lot, but 1 vixen was out, she stood in the middle of the field screaming trying to call her young ones out. We never got her, & the next year the earth was opened up again, same for 4 years till they stopped coming. I learnt that if I got an active earth on the farm with cubs in, I'm too late. January February & March is THE time to get ruthless with them.
You're all heart!

K
 

Klenchblaize

Well-Known Member
Its amazing the change of heart some folk have towards foxes when they lose their first hen of lamb.

I swear I could gain many thousands of acres of land to shoot over between January - May each year as a result of such loses if I could afford the shoe leather required to serve the demand and my freezer was big enough to accommodate the number of gifted hoggets grateful landowners wish to lay at my feet.

K
 
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