For the past two years, from late March through April, I have had the pleasure of witnessing life at a red fox den. A pair of red fox has raised six pups for two consecutive years in a den located under a storage shed a short distance from my home. At each visit to the den, I sit on the ground about 30 yards away. When the pups emerge from their underground lair they stare me down. Occasionally, when their curiosity gets the best of them, one by one, they slowly walk in my direction. When they’ve had their full of me they dash back into the den.
Blind at birth with grayish hair, the kits usually emerge four to five weeks after they are born.
As the weather warms, the pups are out earlier and longer. In the morning they go through a wakeup routine – sitting by the den entrance checking out their surroundings and then vigorously scratching to get relief from biting fleas. Once fully awake, they exhibit short bursts of energy – sneaking up and pouncing on each other, playing tail tug of war, competing for the remains of prey such as bones and feathers, and jumping on windblown leaves. When birds fly overhead I have twice seen them look skyward in unison.
Sometimes all six kits are out together, just relaxing and basking in the sun. That seldom lasts for more than a few minutes, and once again the games begin in earnest with playful biting and wrestling.
When the pups are out and about, the vixen is usually not far away. Once when she returned and spotted me, she let out a screaming bark and the youngsters scurried into the den.
As the season progresses, their coats brighten to rusty red. At 12 weeks they are weaned and begin wandering further from the den, often accompanying adults on foraging trips. By fall the young fox have developed hunting skills sufficient to head out and begin a life on their own.
The past two Februarys, my trail camera has picked up numerous photos of adult fox carrying prey toward the den, a sure sign that a new litter has been born.
story and photo by Bill Banaszewski