Mothers in the Wild

Following up on a lead, I contacted Mike and Laurie to inquire about the red foxes that were raising a family under the small storage barn on their rural property. At one time or another, they had seen 4 pups (kits) playing outside their den, beginning in mid April.

I had one successful visit, seeing the mother (vixen) and two of her pups in late evening sunlight. Initially, the pups were  exploring near the entrance of the den, not venturing far or into full view. However, when mom drifted into sight everything changed: it was feeding time, and the pups were off to the races!

RedFox28Apr15#056E6c5x7

RedFox28Apr15#062E5c5x7

Using the first sighting of the pups in mid April as a guide, one can assume that they were conceived around January 20 and born about 51 days later, on March 12. Pups generally emerge from the den to explore and play about five weeks after birth – which would be mid April.

RedFox28Apr15#065E5c5x7

Since all four pups were seen together, days before and again after my visit on April 28th, I speculate that the storage barn was the main den, and the other two pups were at a nearby, temporary den. The latter was an abandoned woodchuck burrow. Foxes are good diggers and very adept at customizing a burrow to suit their needs. .

RedFox28Apr15#083E5c5x7

The black feet or “booties” and white-tipped tail of a red fox are diagnostic for the species. The typical color of the upper body and head is orange-red, but there is much variation. Color phases include black, silver, gray and a two-toned pattern of reddish and gray.

RedFox28Apr15#094E5c5x7

The pups nursed for ten to fifteen minutes before mom got restless and decided to move on. Foxes are very active in the dim light of dusk and dawn (crepuscular), and it would soon be time to hunt. The male would be hunting too – both parents participate in child-rearing.

RedFox28Apr15#096E5c5x7

Young foxes will generally stay with their mother until fall or early winter. Then, the young males disperse far and wide. Juvenile females are less predictable: some stay with their parents for a year or more and have even been known to assist with future litters.

This last photo, separate from the previous ones in time and place, captured an adult and juvenile in mid September. It was a friendly squabble, possibly a little tough love to encourage the youngster to hunt elsewhere and learn to fend for itself.

RedFoxes17Sept13#106E3c5x7ps

Photos by NB Hunter. © All Rights Reserved.

Advertisements

9 thoughts on “Mothers in the Wild

    • Thanks Alison! It was my first close encounter with a family and I’m already hoping for a similar experience next year – but earlier, when the pups are younger and a little less mobile.

    • Thanks Gunta. Glad you liked it and, yes, I’ll do my best to keep ’em coming! It’s getting warm and I might shift gears and do something on small, cold-water streams in the near future. 🙂

    • Thank you Marco. Much appreciated. It was one of the more rewarding wildlife experiences that I’ve had in recent years. I was hoping for another shot at them but, as is often the case with natural events, it never materialized. Maybe next spring!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s