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  • Writer's pictureMike Curtis

Exciting fox update - cubs!!

Updated: May 7

I've been trying to think of a name for our beautiful resident vixen, which is no easy thing as I've named so many in the last 10 years. Having asked ChatGPT to provide some ideas for names, it suggested Ruby. I decided to go with it because Ruby was also my grandmother's name.

Ruby continues to pose beautifully as usual, but we've also noticed that she's begun to carry food away into the woods, presumably for the cubs, so I decided to deploy some camera traps to find out where she goes. It only took a few days to track down the approximate location of the den and then suddenly two cubs appear on video chasing after Ruby (see below). I subsequently located the only position to observe the den directly and for the first time in my life I was able to watch fox cubs playing at the entrance to their den or earth.

However, there are some bigger surprises... see below.

Pintail and Black Socks

As in previous years, there's another adult vixen living in this family unit. Pintail (below left), named after the distinctive tip of her tail that is missing some of its fur, except for the very end, giving it a white pin-like tip appearance. No doubt this will disappear with time as her fur regrows, but she's also more evenly red, has slightly more white on her cheeks, is a little smaller than Ruby and has a quizzical look on her face when being watched. Pintail is also very subordinate to Ruby and quite nervous. I've seen her on the camera traps taking food to the den site, so she's definitely part of this fox family group. Amazingly, she may also be nursing cubs, as her teats were visible in an IR night video. The still image (below middle) doesn't show it was well, so I highlighted the teats with red circles. If she is nursing her own cub(s), it may explain why one cub looks so much smaller and younger than the other two, and may also explain why that small cub followed Pintail away from the den (see video below). In 2019 we witnessed two vixens creche a combined 8 cubs together, but the current sightings suggest two vixens may be using the same den! No doubt there'll be more on this mystery during the coming weeks.

The other fox in this family is the dog fox, or Black Socks (below right) as I've decided to call him. He's exceptionally wary of people, so I've not had many opportunities to see or photograph him. That said, he's a uniformly orange-colour including the tip of his tail, but he has short-black sock markings on his forelegs. He also has a prominent scar on the end of his snout. I hope to see more of him as the summer progresses.

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