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  • Writer's pictureMike Curtis

Catching up with the Cambridge foxes

Updated: May 15, 2022

It's increasingly clear that, once again, the more I observe the Cambridge foxes, the more they confound the information I've read about this amazing species.

Scar in the late evening light

There's a family group of five 'adult' foxes sharing a territory; White-eye the dominant vixen who for the fourth year in succession has a litter of cubs, Red21 her mate, and three of last year's cubs - Dark-face, Scar and Dot. While I'm not too surprised by some of last year's cubs still being around, Dot is a male fox, who if standard behaviour is to be believed, should have been driven away last autumn. The other vixen who's seen infrequently is called Auntie. She remains as much a mystery in 2022 as she was in 2019, but she's clearly well tolerated by the family.

Since introducing the individuals in my last post, their behaviour has changed. Last year's happy-go-lucky siblings spend less time goofing around in the field, although Dark-face and Scar pass through a couple of times a day, while Dot is rarely seen during office hours. This change in behaviour seems to have coincided with White-eye giving birth to her latest litter. It's quite tempting to infer that the siblings are now taking on some responsibility to help provide food for their new brothers and sisters.

Generally, relationships within the family are very amicable but on rare occasions, squabbles can break out over the supplemental food I provide if it's not been distributed widely enough. While these squabbles are always dramatic and noisy, with teeth bared, it is all threat and no actual harm is done. On the rare occasions it's happened, it always starts off the same with ears flattened and tails wagging. This escalates into a game of pushing and shoving using their rumps, which can become quite comical as one or both foxes get their rear ends lifted into the air while still trying to eat. If this doesn't resolve the issue, one will try to dominate the other by mounting them, which usually results in the less dominant fox flipping onto its back in dramatic fashion with legs kicking out and brilliantly white teeth displayed in gaping mouths. In a matter of a few seconds, probably less than five, the scuffle is over and the pecking order is re-established.

In the following gallery, Dot and Scar had a particularly acrobatic squabble, with Dot ultimately asserting his dominance. I'm beginning to think that Scar is also male based on relative sizes, but I'm yet to see any anatomical evidence.

Not long after this sequence of photos was taken normal behaviour resumed with the three siblings lying down together in the evening sun.

All foxes seem to be in good health, except for Red21 who appears to have a nasty ear infection. He cuts a rather miserable looking figure with his ear down and head tilted to one side. There looks to have been some discharge and evidence that he's scratched the ear to the point of bleeding. Hopefully, he will recover soon.

We also have a second lactating vixen who's recently turned up. We've been seeing her most days as she scuttles along the side of the building. She doesn't go into the field and does not appear to have a relationship with the territory holding family. I've not been able to get a photograph of her yet but she does look very similar to a vixen I used to see last year, who at one stage had a severe limp that she eventually recovered from. The adjacent photo was taken in 2021 of the so called 'Lame Vixen'. I hope it is her as she battled through a lot to survive last summer.

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