• Mike Curtis

The class of 2021

Updated: May 14

During my weekly visits to the office, I've been seeing the same group of three foxes every evening, pretty much without fail. All appear to be comfortable in each other's company and are tolerant of each other when feeding. I even witnessed two of them curled up together in the early morning sun. Last Friday, 7th May, a fourth adult fox appeared in the field and immediately pushed the male fox away from some food. It subsequently spent 20 mins in the company of two others. Then on May 12th, a fifth fox turned up, this time clearly lactating. She too was very comfortable with the other foxes. Our skulk of foxes, a skulk is the collective noun, comprises four vixens and one dog fox. Spurred on by a feeling that I recognised two of the vixens, some careful comparison with my photo catalogue confirmed that they were the same two vixens from 2019 who between them raised eight cubs and who famously creched their combined families.

So it's time to introduce the class of 2021

White Eye (vixen)

White Eye (2019) with minor eye injury White Eye (2021) the injury is still visible, just.

Click images for a closer look at the distinctive eye injury

White Eye's teats are silhouetted along her abdomen, indicating she is nursing cubs for the third year running

White Eye is our hard-working, slightly skittish vixen who raised six cubs in 2019. She's slight in stature, with the look of a coyote, which was enhanced in 2019 as her fur was more grey in colour. I positively identified her by the slight scar to her right eye, which was more prominent in 2019 and caused a bright reflection of infrared light in the wildlife camera, hence the name she was given. She's in fantastic condition considering she's been nursing cubs for potentially six weeks. Her fine condition may be because she has an extended family of last year's cubs helping to feed the growing family. Certainly, none of the other vixens are lactating.

Auntie (vixen)

In 2019, Auntie surprised us all when she turned up at the feeding site, where we had been viewing initially six, then eight cubs, together with White Eye and the father, Impostor. It quickly became obvious that Auntie was known and excepted by the other foxes, and eventually, it became obvious that she was the mother of two of the cubs. I hadn't seen her since she stopped showing in September 2019, and then throughout the pandemic, until her sudden appearance last Friday. In addition to the general look of her face, her distinguishing feature is three missing lower incisor teeth :)

Blondie (vixen)

Blondie is the poster fox for her species. Bold and beautiful without a mark on her face with an immaculate fur coat and thick brush. Her immaculate condition suggests she's a young vixen, possibly one of last year's cubs (we know there were three cubs born during the lockdown, potentially to White Eye). The fact that she's in regular contact with White Eye would be consistent with her being a daughter who's stayed in White Eye's territory. It also seems that she's inherited a social bond with White Eye's old ally, Auntie. Watching social animals like foxes is fascinating.

Lame Vixen

The Lame Vixen is readily identifiable by her lame rear left leg, which she's reluctant to put weight on. In addition, she has a bare patch on the righthand base of her tail. I sincerely hope it's not mange. Despite her ailments, she's in pretty good shape and gets around quite well. She's a little more skittish than the others, perhaps as a consequence of her injury, but she's a regular in the area. Again, she's very comfortable in the presence of the other foxes and has a striking facial appearance to White Eye, so perhaps she's also one of last year's cubs.

Red21 (male)

Red21 is the first to show, most evenings. Well, it's him or Blondie. He's quite bold and not easily spooked. Like Blondie, he sports a fantastic coat and a thick brush, although he's a deep-red colour. He's also pretty much unblemished. He seems to live a relaxed life in close proximity to four vixens, but I've no idea what his relationship is with the other foxes, however, I have seen him be subordinate to Auntie on two occasions during squabbles over food. Is he one of Auntie's cubs from last year, if she had any, and if he is, why hasn't he been driven away?

Hopefully, further observations will give me some clues as to his relationship.

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