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In spring foxes begin their annual moult. At the beginning of summer, the female has finished lactating and the breeding den is abandoned. In mid-summer the adults start bringing less food for the cubs and so the juveniles youngsters need to learn to forage for themselves. Towards the end of the summer, the family is increasingly spread over a larger area. Already in early autumn, the cubs are fully grown and cannot easily be distinguished from an adult fox.
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The family group starts to break up, fighting increases and some of the youngsters disperse. Autumn, as well as winter, are part of the dispersal season. Whilst the adults moult out their old coat in the early summer, the growth of the new coat is not completed until the early autumn. This is when their coats look at their best, and is why most foxes are hunted for their furs in early winter.
This is the mating season and when young foxes disperse from their natal area. Males follow females at close quarters. This is the period when fights and vocalizations are their highest. Towards the end of the winter, the female will look for a suitable den where she can give birth to the cubs. This Behaviour ensures the remaining littermates do not become infected with something the cub may be carrying. After about three weeks the vixen will start to lie away from her cubs to wean them off her milk onto solid foods. This food will usually be offered to the cubs through regurgitation for the first week or so.
The young are completely independent by seven months and are able to breed when ten months of age. Since the wide distribution of foxes no conservation measures are needed for the species as a whole. Several organisations exist to look after injured or sick individual foxes.
The fox is blamed across the world for taking livestock and this will always bring the fox into conflict with man. Foxes are trapped in high numbers for their fur.
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They are also killed in enormous numbers during rabies control schemes. However following such control measures foxes usually rapidly recover their numbers and because of this the current approach involves using an oral vaccine. This has proven to have a very high success rate in many European countries. January is usually the month of unrest within the fox family - not only is it the peak of the mating season, but also the peak dispersal season too.
Cubs that were born last year, now adults, will be seen as a threat to the breeding rights and the available food supply of their parents.
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Any sub- adults who have failed to disperse will usually be continually chased away. Many of the sub- adults will actually leave of their own accord in search of a territory and a mate of their own. The resident dog fox and vixen will be actively defending the territory against intruders, both physically and vocally.
They do this by barking and urinating and defecating along the borders of their territory. From the dog fox's point of view he must ensure he is there when she is ready. Several attempts to mount the vixen will be rebuffed, sometimes quite aggressively. However, when she is ready she flirts around the dog fox. Caution at this stage is thrown to the wind, and many people will observe the foxes in the process of mating.
When the vixen is ready the dog fox will grasp her from behind with his front two legs and start to mate. Also, the vixen's vagina will constrict. This swelling and constriction will cause the pair to lock together, commonly called the 'tie'. In the countryside, disused rabbit warrens are common, as are badger setts. Quite the opposite of January, February is usually a relatively stable month for the fox family.
The dispersal season is over and the fights over who breeds with whom have now stopped. Although they will have given up their right to breed, some of the benefits outweigh this i. The dominant vixen is usually the only vixen allowed to mate, but females from previous litters will play their part in actually looking after and rearing the young when they are born. They act as aunties looking after the cubs whilst the vixen is away hunting, and will also bring food back for the cubs. In February the vixen, during the day, will be denned down in the earth she has prepared.
The vixen will be confined to her earth at one point during this season because March is the peak cubbing season.
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If you are lucky enough to have witnessed the breeding, by counting down between 53 days you will have an accurate idea as to when the cubs will be born. The average litter of cubs is usually five in number, and when born they are blind and deaf. Since being unable to regulate their own body heat, the vixen will not usually leave their side for about 10 - 11 days.
At birth the cubs weigh approximately gm, and in addition to not being able to regulate their own heat, they also rely solely on the vixen to stimulate them to urinate and defecate. Since being denned down the vixen relies on her dog fox to bring food - and heaven help him if he's late!
Like many males of different species, the dog fox will at this time look like he's got the world on his shoulders and appears very lethargic. The easiest option for ensuring you do not lose a pet rabbit or guinea pig in any month is to ensure you have provided adequate housing for them. It will usually be on a nice warm day in April when the cubs venture for the first time above ground.
After a great play they will often slump down in a pile and go to sleep out in the open. The vixen will still be kennelled down with them but now she will hunt for herself. The dog fox will usually lie close to the earth protecting the cubs from any unwanted attention from cats. In March and April telephone calls from concerned householders peak, thinking that foxes are looking to kill cats to feed to the cubs.
What however, is actually happening, is the cats which are attracted to the earth because of the noises of the cubs, are seen off by either the dog fox or vixen, in some cases both. Left to their own devices, when cubs are very young cats will kill them as they would a bird.
To wean the cubs off her milk the vixen will lay away from them during the day, bringing small items of food back for them often.
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It is this behaviour that leads many to believe that cubs out on their own during the day, with no adult apparently around, must have been abandoned. To ensure this is not the case a good idea is to put down an egg about five feet from the earth. Cubs at this age will not be able to pick it up and move it, and the fox is really the only animal apart from badgers that will actually take the egg away. This area, known as the play area, will also be where the vixen now starts bringing food to the cubs.
It may also be to wean them from the earth, because later in the month this will be abandoned and the cubs, like the adults will lie above ground. Although still playing during the day, the cubs start to become more lethargic.
The cubs are becoming more self sufficient, which may be due to the fact that the adults will bring back less food. Both dog fox and vixen will take the cubs out to known feeding sites, usually the cubs will be split e. How they learn anything one wonders, when still all of their time is taken up playing! Looking more like adults now, the cubs will start their activities around the same time as the adults, most active between dusk and dawn.
The latter half of the month gives a clue as to what they are all eating, adults included, as their droppings will be almost purple with the amount of blackberries picked. Cubs hunting for voles, mice etc. At any point if the vixen or dog fox detects danger they will give out a sharp bark, which will send the cubs scurrying for cover.