The red fox is the most widespread and numerous predator in Britain.

Breeding

Foxes breed only once a year, most mating occurring in January or early February. Courting foxes can be heard barking or uttering unearthly screams; the dog and vixen hunt and travel together for about three weeks before mating. The vixen looks for a suitable den or 'earth' - she may dig one under tree roots, or find a hole in a rock crevice, under a garden shed or even in a pile of rubbish!

A litter of four or five cubs is born after a gestation period of 53 days in March or April. They are blind, have round faces and short ears, and are covered with dark, chocolate-brown fur.

The vixen stays with her cubs in the earth until they are two weeks old, relying on the dog fox to bring her food. The cubs grow quickly, their eyes opening when 10-14 days old. At around 4-5 weeks they begin to come out of the earth and their dark fur starts to change to red-brown. Non-breeding vixens in the family group may help the mother to rear her cubs. As the cubs grow up they play, squabble and fight amongst themselves. From as early as four weeks old they fight quite viciously - sometimes even to the death - and in this way they establish their social position.

In October and November most of the young dog foxes and some of the vixens leave the home territory to try and establish territories of their own. Others stay at home. At this time of year many young foxes are killed by cars, dogs etc., or die of starvation or cold during a hard winter. About 55% of foxes die in their first year without having had a chance to breed and 80% die before they are three years old.

The short life-span of a fox means that females will breed only two or three times on average, while males usually only mate once.

Read More: Foxes and Humans

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