As you know, I regularly film the garden foxes at night using the infra-red camera. There seem to be at least four visitors at the moment, and the other night I filmed some really cute behaviour that I’d never seen before.
The vixen and one of last years cubs
Before you watch the footage I’ll explain a bit about the foxes. The vixen has now got to the point where she can leave her cubs and comes looking for her own food. She was absent for a couple of weeks (just after the birth of the cubs) while she stayed with them 24/7. During that time her mate would have fed her but I’m not sure he did a brilliant job. By the time she emerged she was very skinny, bedraggled and brush-bare.
Over the last week she seems to have put on some weight and regained a bit of condition (maybe helped by peanuts and honey sandwiches?). Other than her mate the other visitors seem to be two female cubs from last year – I call them “the youngsters”. One has had bad mange (but looks like she is recovering well) and the other is very bushy tailed and fit.
One of the youngsters recovering from hair loss (on her side) caused by mange
The footage that I managed to capture shows a meeting between one of the youngsters (the bushy tailed one) and the vixen. It starts with the youngster feeding. Then she spots “something” approaching. She barks and her tail starts wagging, her ears go back and she lies flat on the ground.
Next the vixen arrives. She approaches the youngster and starts licking her head, ears and eyes. The youngster is still very submissive but closes her eyes and her ears come forward. She’s obviously happy to receive a clean-up from mum.
It doesn’t last long and soon the vixen is trotting off to find some food.
I’m guessing this is some kind of bonding behaviour. The vixen is obviously still dominant and the youngster submissive but the vixen needs the youngster to help look after the cubs.
I’d compare it to giving your eldest daughter a big hug but at the same time making sure she realises she still has to help with the washing-up.
Hopefully it won’t be long now before we see the cubs.