Watercress 41 - January 1998

The fox - our wildlife neighbour

The Fox, (Vulpes vulpes) is Britain’s only wild member of the dog family.

It is unmistakeable, with its russet coat, white underparts, alert pricked-up ears and sharp muzzle. It is tough, wary and very intelligent, and is resourceful and adaptable enough to have taken readily to life in the town. This success in urban areas is partly because the fox is, to all intents and purposes, omnivorous; and partly because it is not usually persecuted in the town as it is in the countryside. It may even be actively encouraged and fed by sympathetic householders.

Our visiting fox is usually seen (more often smelt) on site very early in the morning. Even our inefficient human noses can easily smell the strong musky odour of a fox several hours after its passage.

The dog fox and vixen lead separate lives throughout most of the year but come together for breeding in winter; their courtship punctuated by the yaps of the dog fox and the weird screams of the vixen.

In the countryside the den will be a suitable hole or hollow in a sheltered and quiet spot - under rocks or in holes already dug by rabbit or badger. In urban areas the den may well be under your garden shed! The den or “earth” smells strongly of fox and is littered with bits of old food.

The cubs are born in April and food is brought by both parents, though the vixen takes on most of the responsibility of raising the cubs. The cubs are intelligent and quick to learn and by midsummer they are ready to leave the earth.

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