From bald eagles to beavers and rabbits to red foxes, springtime is the time of year for wildlife babies. Some species like chipmunks and squirrels are prolific and have two or more litters per year. But all-in-all, spring is the season when most wild animal babies come into this world.
In spite of annoying blackflies, I try to get out into the woods with a camera as much as possible to see what I can find in the cuteness department. But I didn’t have to go into the woods at all to photograph the two red fox kits in the image above. I found them playing outside of their den in a neighbor’s pasture just over two weeks ago. This pair is part of a litter of five. I’ve also spotted the parents on several occasions but they have proven to be quite camera-shy. Once, I caught the mother nursing the kits alongside one of the two entrances to her den but she ran off as soon as she spotted me, leaving the hungry youngsters a bit confused and perplexed.
I’m able to observe both entrances of the fox den, which are about 20 feet apart, from a fencerow without having to enter the pasture at all. Now that leaves are emerging, my vantage point is hidden that much more. It’s my guess that these kits are five weeks old and that their eyes have only been open for about three weeks. At this point, they can’t see very far, so I doubt that they have any idea that I’m even there. But that will change in time.
Fox kits are blind and helpless at birth and depend on their mother for sustenance. The female, known as a vixen, remains with her babies constantly for the first two weeks to nurse and keep them warm. During that time, she depends on her mate to provide for her own nourishment. By their fourth week, weaning begins and the kits are fed partially-digested food, which has been regurgitated by the parents. Although red foxes are normally nocturnal, it’s not unusual to see them hunting during the day at this time of year when they’re busy feeding hungry pups.
It’s almost time for the kits to start exploring but so far they haven’t meandered more than 25 feet from either den entrance. They spend most of their time stalking one other and wrestling. By mid-summer, they will need to become accomplished hunters and the playful fighting and biting is preparing them to do just that. By fall, they will have to be ready to go off and survive on their own.