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  • Writer's pictureMike Curtis

An evening with the Cambridge fox cubs

Updated: Jun 25

Given the wet spring and early summer, the field where I usually watch the Cambridge fox family has become heavily overgrown with long grass, making it difficult to see or photograph the fox cubs. As a result, I decided to set up my portable photography hide to capture low-angle images of the cubs along the side of our office building, where the vegetation is better managed. However, since the cubs are becoming less naive each day, entering their space could potentially frighten them.

To minimize the risk of scaring the cubs and increase my chances of getting some intimate shots, I erected the hide early in the morning, allowing them to get used to it without any additional disturbances like unfamiliar smells and sounds. In the evening, I placed some of their favorite supplemental feed (peanuts with a bit of dog kibble) on a concrete step and retreated to the hide. Given the close setup, I anticipated that the camera shutter might be an issue, so I set it to electronic/silent mode. The silent shutter is a great feature of mirrorless cameras for wildlife photography, but with my Canon R6, it defaults to about 20+ frames per second. It's astonishing how many images can be captured during a prolonged sighting.

Click on the gallery to see images

After just 30 minutes, two bold cubs emerged from the hedge, offering some lovely compositions as they were partially hidden by the vegetation. They quickly found the peanuts and started eating them just as a second pair of cubs arrived. These two looked different, being smaller and having paler fur. My working hypothesis is that the two pairs of cubs come from different litters—one set belonging to Ruby, who is sadly no longer with us, and the smaller pair to Pintail. It was clear that the bold cubs bully the other two when there's food around, but they soon turned their competitiveness on each other, shoving and pushing with their rumps until one was lifted in the air. It was quite comical.

My concerns about frightening the cubs were unfounded. They ignored me so completely that I had to make occasional squeaks to get them to lift their heads and look toward the hide! Eventually, one of the smaller cubs became curious and approached closely, staring intently through the camera aperture. I could never have captured such images without a silent shutter, but it came at the cost of sifting through nearly 900 photos during editing.

I spent almost an hour with the cubs nearby and had to wait until they left on their own before exiting the hide. I didn't want them to associate it with a negative experience. I packed up quickly, thrilled with the unique perspective I had gained of the cubs.

Click on the gallery to see images

By chance, I was attending a garden party in Cambridge the next day, so I stopped by the office to show Christine the cubs. Just over five minutes after scattering some peanuts on the step outside the fire exit door, the cubs appeared and put on a fantastic display of pushing and shoving. Remarkably, I was able to record the video below through the glass door, just centimeters away from the cubs.

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