• Mike Curtis

The fox class of 2022

I've been back in Cambridge full time for a couple of months following the UK government's 'work from home' request in response to the omicron wave. During this time, wildlife sightings have been extremely good and fairly dependable, especially the foxes. As a result, I've slowly 'got my eye in' for identifying the individual foxes. The good news is that six of last year's foxes are still present, including all three of last year's cubs. So this year I am hoping to be sharing images and updates of these fascinating creatures.


Red 21

This handsome fox is the same territorial male from last year. He's a fairly uniform red colour all over with deep amber coloured eyes and pale tear stripes. He's clearly still tolerant of the subadult cubs from last year, who greet him enthusiastically. This is illustrated in the right-hand image in the gallery below, where the ever-playful Dark Face is annoying her father.


White-Eye

White-Eye is a remarkable vixen who has successfully raised three litters of cubs since 2019, including the six cubs that I documented in 2019. I hadn't seen White-Eye during the winter of 21/22, so I was delighted when she appeared at the end of March, clearly nursing a new litter of cubs. This is the fourth year in a row that she's produced cubs. Her identifying characteristic is a slight nick to the edge of her right eye, which since 2019 has become less and less obvious as the injury has healed. Other than that, she's quite a small fox with a grey tinge to her fur, a tiny white tip to her tail, and the look of a coyote especially when her winter coat is lost. Given that she's been a full-time mum for several years, it's unsurprising that she's very business-like and is always on the move looking for food. At the moment she's sporting a magnificent winter coat.

Above: White-Eye in early April with her milk-filled teats clearly visible


Auntie

Auntie is another vixen who I first encountered in 2019. She's large for a vixen, being similar in size to Red 21 and, like him, she has an even red coloured coat with pale tear stripes. Her distinguishing features are a muzzle that is pockmarked with scars and only having a single lower incisor tooth (she's also lost her two lower canines since last year). She also has the most incredibly intense stare (see centre image below).

In 2019 she and White-Eye surprised me hugely by establishing a creche of eight cubs, two of which were Auntie's. The two families got on wonderfully and all eight cubs survived at least until they dispersed in the autumn.


Dark Face

Dark Face is a young vixen from White-Eye's 2021 litter. She is quite distinctive with pale grey to blonde coloured fur on her body and shoulders, dark tear stripes (hence her name) and a white-tipped tail that has a slight kink in it. Her behaviour is also distinctive. She's generally quite playful, often initiating bouts of rough and tumble with her siblings, and very demonstrative when either Red 21 or White-Eye appear. She appears to be the more dominant of last year's litter, as I've seen her 'mount' both Scar and Dot at the conclusion to play fights. She also has a habit of stretching a lot (see below right), which I rarely see the others doing, as well as lying in the field with her rear legs stretched out behind her. Together with Red 21, she's usually the first fox to be seen in the evening.


Scar

Poor old Scar. Such a beautiful fox with an unfortunate name, but it's very appropriate as she has a pronounced scar on her muzzle near her nose that is easily seen through binoculars (centre image below). She is currently missing fur from the end of her tail, which is her most obvious feature, but I hope this is temporary. I certainly hope it is not sarcoptic mange. Other than those very obvious features, she again has quite a grey tinge to her coat and pale tear stripes. As one of last year's cubs, Scar still has a close relationship with her siblings and parents, Red 21 and White-Eye.


Dot

Superficially, Dot and Scar look very similar, with their coats tinged with grey. If I ignore the absence of a muzzle scar, Dot's distinguishing feature is a small pale patch of fur above his left eye (see the left image below). In addition, he has relatively dark tear stripes and a white-tipped tail that is straight as a ruler. Dot has a close relationship with Dark Face, with both enjoying some rough and tumble, as well as more tender moments. In the right-hand image, Dot (right) is easily distinguished from Dark Face by his generally paler, grey-tinged coat.


Dark Face and Dot playing in the early April sunshine



Dark Face follows her mother White-Eye as she forages



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