Interesting Fox Behaviour

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.

Vixen licking last years female cub

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.

Last years female fox cub - recovering from mange

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.

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9 thoughts on “Interesting Fox Behaviour

  1. Jane, that’s beautiful. What a privilege to be able to watch this behaviour. The young female obviously recognises Mum.

    Thanks for the link you left me. Gorgeous site!

  2. Thanks Dragonstar. Yes, it was lovely to see. Only lasts a few seconds but even so…. Glad you liked the site I sent. It’s got some lovely jewellery, and not too pricey!

  3. Permuted. I’ve noticed this a lot over the last couple of weeks. A lot of very submissive behaviour from last years cubs. Lots of tail wagging, ears back and laying on the ground – mixed with yelps and barks of welcome directed at the dominant male and female. The two youngsters seem to go everywhere together. If you see one, the other is never far away. It’s very interesting to watch. Without the infra-red camera I’d never know what was going on. Jane

  4. Really interesting stuff Jane – as you know I’m into animal behaviour in a big way.

    How long have you been observing your foxes? I’d love to know if it’s something to do with feeding in a domesticated situation where food/boundries have started to have a different meaning. Anyhow fascinating. Shall look forward to more insights.

  5. Hi Paula. It’s such an interesting subject, and hopefully I will manage to film the cubs once they emerge. Thanks again for your comments (as always!). Jane

  6. Has the youngster with mange improved? I have a daily visit from a fox who stayed away for a while but has recently returned looking skinny, bedraggled and brush-bare – in fact, just like your fox. “Mine” now exhibits mange so I’ve contacted the National Fox Welfare Society who send out a treatment that’s homeopathic and has a 99% success rate. Here is the link: http://www.nfws.org.uk/mange/treatment01.htm

    Great to see your video! Best, Andrew

  7. Hi Andrew. I don’t see it any more. Either it moved on or succumbed to the manage. I’m not sure which. I haven’t used the homeopathic treatment yet (I did get a supply in from NFW) so if I need to use it this winter it will be on hand. Hope you manage to get it into your fox… difficult if you have more than one visiting, to make sure it only goes to the one that needs it! Let me know how you get on. Jane

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