David Element

 

Wildlife Photography and Digital Video Images

 

__________________________________________________________________________________________________________________ Mammals 44 – Red Foxes

 

 

 

 

A small brown animal in the grass

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RED FOX Vulpes vulpes (m, f)

 

 

A fox standing in the grass

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RED FOX Vulpes vulpes (m, f)

 

 

A cat sitting on top of a fox

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RED FOXES Vulpes vulpes (m, f)

 

 

A picture containing mammal, dog, grass, brown

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RED FOXES Vulpes vulpes (m, f)

 

 

A fox standing in the grass

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RED FOX Vulpes vulpes (m)

 

 

A close up of a fox

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RED FOX Vulpes vulpes (f)

 

 

                                         A dog standing in the dirt

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RED FOXES Vulpes vulpes (m)

 

 

A fox standing in the grass

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RED FOXES Vulpes vulpes (m)

 

 

A cat that is standing in the dirt

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RED FOX Vulpes vulpes (m)

 

 

A dog that is standing in the grass

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RED FOXES Vulpes vulpes (f, m)

 

 

A fox in the grass

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RED FOX Vulpes vulpes (m)

 

 

A small brown dog standing on grass

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RED FOX Vulpes vulpes (m)

 

 

A fox standing in the grass

Description automatically generated

 

 

RED FOXES Vulpes vulpes (f, m)

 

 

A fox standing in the grass

Description automatically generated

 

 

RED FOX Vulpes vulpes (m)

 

 

A small brown animal in the grass

Description automatically generated

 

 

RED FOXES Vulpes vulpes (m, f)

 

 

A small brown animal in the grass

Description automatically generated

 

 

RED FOX Vulpes vulpes (m)

 

 

A fox walking through a forest

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RED FOX Vulpes vulpes (m)

 

 

A dog sitting in the dirt

Description automatically generated                                      A picture containing mammal, dog, outdoor, sitting

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    RED FOXES Vulpes vulpes (m)                                                                                                                      RED FOXES Vulpes vulpes (m)

 

 

A fox standing in the dirt

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RED FOXES Vulpes vulpes (m)

 

 

A brown and white dog walking down a dirt road

Description automatically generated                       A dog lying on the ground

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    RED FOXES Vulpes vulpes (m)                                                                                                                      RED FOXES Vulpes vulpes (m)

 

 

A fox standing in the grass

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RED FOX Vulpes vulpes (m)

 

·         These photographs illustrate a Red Fox Vulpes vulpes vixen and two of her cubs, aged about 7 weeks at the beginning of the sequence and 8-9 weeks by the end. At this stage of their development they were entirely nocturnal in their habits. These were two males, at the time the survivors from a litter of at least four. A third cub was seen only twice and then only very briefly, so it is presumed to have been abandoned or died. The family had been moved to the author’s garden by their mother (a regular visitor for more than a year beforehand) in early April 2020 (so during ‘lockdown’) and sadly attention was drawn to their presence by the discovery of another abandoned male cub that died on the same day despite efforts to save him. It is not known if the move had been stimulated by disturbance elsewhere or if any additional members of the family had been lost prior to their arrival but the abandonment of the cub would have been a deliberate action by his mother as she could not have afforded to waste her energy looking after a sickly baby with little chance of survival. Vixens are excellent, extremely put upon and tolerant mothers, and they can lose a significant amount of their body weight when caring for their families – but sentimentality is a human trait, not transferrable and foxes cannot afford to display it. The vixen knew and trusted the author and remained with her cubs behind a garden shed until they had grown sufficiently for her to be able to leave them behind in safety during her hunting forays. Competition between cubs is a serious affair and only the strongest are likely to survive. In the case of this family the smaller of these cubs, the one with an obvious white tip to his tail, was presumed to have been injured internally during highly competitive play-fights and despite the availability of food and water he eventually succumbed at the age of sixteen weeks, by which time he was approximately half the weight of his sibling. The dominant cub has survived, having honed his hunting skills in the skirmishes with his unfortunate brother (a willing and enthusiastic competitor), and he is extremely healthy and very well equipped to look after himself. It is a sad fact of life that most Red Foxes lead short lives (averaging perhaps 14-15 months in urban habitats). This is contributed to by high cub mortality and the author’s personal observations revealed that play-fighting may perhaps contribute significantly to the loss of weaker cubs as they will be treated like prey if unable to defend themselves. Vixens can breed during their first year at the age of about ten months (although not all will do so, particularly if they form part of a family group as only the dominant female will normally produce cubs). If each pregnancy produces 4-5 cubs, then high mortality is to be expected if the population balance (where two parents will replace themselves) is to be maintained. Many vixens will only live for long enough to reproduce once but there are exceptions. The vixen shown in these photographed had produced an unseen family during the previous year and at the time of writing she is at least two and a half years old and in much better condition than she was when nursing her family. Another vixen visiting regularly has lived to at least five and a half and the cubs’ father may be of a similar age.

 

·         David’s films of Red Foxes in action may be seen here, with further material waiting to be edited: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL4AirIEc0Noe0MUItMCsgolXpQ0sr_Vx9 .

 

 

 

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