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Jay Foxing

The Red Fox.

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THE RED FOX (VULPES VULPES).

 

Foxes are a relatively small animal, head and body measuring about 26in (66cms) with the tail adding another 15in (38cms) to its length. Average weight of a male is about 15lb (6.8kgs) vixens can weigh as little as 7.5lb (3.5kgs) the same weight as a brown hare. Their eyes are developed for nocturnal hunting (Night Vision) and have a highly developed sense of smell. Ears can pick up slightest sound being able to hear a mouse squeak at 300 Yards.

 

Fox7.jpg

 

Foxes form a monogamous pair living together throughout the year preparing to hunt on their own in joint territory, briefly meeting on hunting forays. Behaviour changes as the breeding season approaches. The pair spending more and more time travelling and hunting together. When separated maintaining contact vocally with a blood chilling scream or triple wow-wow-wow bark. Both calls can be heard echoing across fields and through the chilly air of a silent wood in late December through to early February depending on local climate.

 

The vixen is only fertile for three days each year, with the pair mating several times during this period. The dog fox will approach his mate cautiously at first, since early attempts to mount her are often rebuffed with an aggressive snarl. With his persistence however he eventually mates successfully. After mating their close bond gradually weakens and the vixen starts to investigate possible breeding earths, old rabbit warrens, the roots of an old tree, vacant badger sets, rock piles and dried up drains are all ideal sites for raising her family. After she will pick up a site not to far from a good source of water a small stream or brooks. As well as investigating the potential of a few ready made sites she will however dig several new earths before making her final choice. The best earth is a covered bank, bracken and bluebells, gorse providing a play ground as well as hides for young cubs with sandy soil that is warm, drains well and is easily dug. The vixen has a 53 day pregnancy, she spends a lot of time in the earth as the birth of her cub’s approaches. The fur from her belly is lost and the enlarged nipples are exposed. Cubs are born on bare earth inside the earth, the vixen makes no attempt to line the ground before or after the cubs are born. Average Litters are of five cubs but occasionally there may be as many as nine or ten.

 

Cub are born about four inches (10cms) long, weighing about 3.5 ounces (100 grams) and are covered in a dark chocolate /brown fur. Blind deaf and totally dependant on the mother for food and warmth. The vixen rarely leaves her cubs in the first two weeks for this reason and is fed by her mate, he enters the earth making a subdued woofing noise placing the food nearby then departing quickly. It is extremely rare for the dog fox to stay with the cubs under ground at any age, spending his time lying above ground not to far from the earth hiding in dense cover. Cubs grow quickly, Two weeks later eyes open and hearing is able. Their eyes are slate blue at this stage and provide limited vision. Wobbly legs provide uneasy and staggered transport around the earth. The vixen will spend lots of time gathering her stray cubs, during these short outings cubs utter a high pitched little triple bark that makes a contact call. Cubs are still totally dependant on the vixen for her milk. By mid April early may cubs emerge from the earth. For the first time, at this stage they are about four weeks old. First expeditions are cautious ones and cubs may just at the entrance for the first few days. They soon become confident and boisterous play commences as they chase and fight amongst each other. At four weeks of age cubs start to moult their chocolate fur and patches reddish or orange coloured fur can be seen around the face. Their eyes turn to classic amber and they weigh in at an incredible 1 stone (6 kilograms) by the age of six to eight weeks their coat has been totally replaced with red or orange fur.

 

FoxCub.jpg

 

Once outside the earth cubs start to take solid food with most vixens virtually stopping milk production when cubs are about eight weeks of age, though a small amount of them may still produce for 12 to 14 weeks after birth.

Foxes are very territorial but a breeding pair may share their territory with a barren vixen. She does not breed but will help the new mother rear her cubs. The dog fox needs all the help he can get to find food for all the cubs now they are on solids.

 

Cubs start to forage for themselves hunting for beetles, earthworms and snails then move onto fledgling birds that can’t fly properly as the summer progresses. They will perfect their hunting skills and become less dependant on parents for food. While inexperienced the cubs will eat lots of beetles, slugs, carrion and fruit like blackberries. Occasional supplements of young rabbit or vole as skills are sharpened.

 

By September/October cubs are indistinguishable in size and appearance by parents. The fox family bond starts to weaken and the play fights become more serious. The cubs will soon disperse, the cause of them finally moving off is uncertain but disturbance may often stimulate the move. Autumn the local hunts move through the woods to train new hounds with some of the cubs killed survivors moving away to start new territory. Male cubs travel further a field then female, often several miles before settling in new areas.

Many will die over the winter period run over or snared whilst they disperse. By the end of winter only perhaps two of the original five would have survived the gauntlet of Riflemen, Hounds and cars to raise litters of their own the following year.

 

The size of a foxes territory can vary from as little as 25-50 acres to well over 250 acres dependant on the local food supply. They trespass on territories of other foxes to increase their search for food. Some foxes may never settle, constantly moving on in a never ending search for a place to call home. Foxes have a wide vocabulary of noises each can be made with a variety of pitches, A night spent in woodland over winter will convince anyone how complicated a system of communication foxes have. Foxes make noises throughout the year but are at their most vocal mid-winter. Each call probably serves multiple functions, enabling caller to identify itself and position with other vulpine members. There are four recognisable types of fox call, most frequently heard is the wow-wow-wow call. The second is the screech often known as the vixen scream, though dog foxes also make this noise. The two other noises you have to get close to hand as the noises are made when foxes are in close contact. One is a clicking sound similar to a footballers raffle and the simple whines and whimpers which can be heard as foxes greet each other.

 

Another form of communication is scent marking. Grass tussocks, mole-hills, fence posts, trees and bushes will all serve as scent stations for both dog and vixen to anoint staking claim on territory. Foxes droppings or scats as they are otherwise known are remarkably similar to each others, they always contain the remains of beetles and other insects, small mammals such as mice and voles and the bones and feathers of birds. Rabbit fur and bone fragments will be found in a high percentage of scats as they are a staple food source in the foxes diet. The droppings are tapered and twisted, dark in colour and frequently found on large stones or mole hills besides tracks. They also serve as territory boundary markers.

 

Foxes use regular runs which they use at predictable times, a fox has a almost set routine from day to day. A foxes footprint is oval, about two inches (6 cms) long and one a half inches (4 cms) wide. The fox never leaves claw prints, only the impression of the pads. Only in very soft ground will some impression of foxes claws be seen, but this is rare as a fox tends to avoid mud whenever it can. The fox quite literally walks on the balls of its feet, stepping daintily over most obstacles and leaving little sign of its passing. Foxes walk very straight, purposeful lines. Sometimes if conditions are right like a hard frost or fresh snow you can follow it’s tracks for sometimes miles with little course deviation except for the odd investigating stops on it’s route to sniff around the odd warren or cover and may hide the odd pheasant.

 

Fox12.jpg

 

Foxes larder surplus food while the goings good but as its food is highly perishable it can only store its food for a short time. They dig a small grave in to which the food is carefully nosed. With delicate sweeping strokes of it’s snout the fox covers it’s hoard, pushing the soil down with jabs of it’s nose. Foxes are killing machines and often kill more then is required to store later on when times are hard.

 

Sometimes I think our foxes are more feline than canine as they are very agile and pounce on prey in a cat like manner. They are also good climbers and can often be found sunning themselves in trees and on out building roofs. Foxes are fascinating creatures and their joy to watch. They should never be hunted to extinction but numbers do need controlling, but in some areas it’s possible to live and let live.

 

Thanks for reading,

Jay.

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hi jay , nice write up mate

All the best..........

RAY............... :D :D

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a great find ,fantastic photos

think the wieghts are a bit lite

most the fox ive shot/ find em to be a bit wieghtyr than that nower days

but good reading and thanx for putting it on

cheers chris

awesome pikkies reminds me reading the fox study books /they are bigger in genra no by an average of 2lb vixens 14 and dog foxes average 17lb /my taxidermist friends had one in 20.5 lb /territories dont think that it works that way anymore theres just to many of em the amout that are shot and they stil appeare under your noses with cubs /one of the papers is quotin thousands and thousands in london alone /nice looking /but vermin /get em shot .

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awesome pikkies reminds me reading the fox study books /they are bigger in genra no by an average of 2lb vixens 14 and dog foxes average 17lb /my taxidermist friends had one in 20.5 lb /territories dont think that it works that way anymore theres just to many of em the amout that are shot and they stil appeare under your noses with cubs /one of the papers is quotin thousands and thousands in london alone /nice looking /but vermin /get em shot .

did you shoot em with the rifle after the camera

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Jay

 

A great write up. Can I have your permission to copy it to give to my young cousin (13yrs old) who is really keen on shooting etc. I feel its really important for young sportsman to learn the real story about all quarry that they are looking out for. I certainly read books about them as a kid and was fortunate enough to have a great mentor who was not only a sportsman but also a great naturalist and installed in me a great love for all things including the red coat that would steal our grey partridges.

 

Trigger

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Hi Jay nice pictures of those North American fox’s, hard to believe that they are all from UK stock, which were taken over the pond many years ago. The native gray fox does not provide much in the way of sport, as it prefers to climb trees rather than give the hounds a good run across country ;)

 

 

ATB Bob

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Well just came across this site and threads which inspired me to put pen to paper, as I’m off foxing this evening after losing some quality birds 4 weeks ago. Somehow the red devils found a weakness in my pens and now I’m paying the price. To give you an insight to what’s here I set up a feeding station and had 7 foxes in the field. So far I’ve had 3 but there’s still a few to deal with. I noticed the fox amble past Rabbits out feeding and went to the pen that had been raided, then unfortunately for the unlucky 3 they went for the spot where I had partly buried the chicken carcass they had left on their previous visits.

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May have good eyes and hears but there still stupid enough to sit cleaning them selfs at 300 yards away from me thinking there safe! Lol

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May have good eyes and hears but there still stupid enough to sit cleaning them selfs at 300 yards away from me thinking there safe! Lol

:D

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Alfiemarley- Ive reported your post.

 

But just so you know, in Australia the red fox introduction has killed a huge portion of our native fauna. They carry disease and also kill/attack domestic pets like small dogs and cats. They also attack and kill lambs and calves while they are being born. Ive seen a fox ravage a calf that was half way out of its mother and when it finally came out it had no eyes or tongue left and had its crutch nibbled out as well. They are diabolical creatures here and I wont rest until I kill as many as I possibly can. I hope you have a great day, Im off to sight in my rifle.

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Foxes are beautiful creatures and should be left alone, I hope some of you shooters kill each other because you deserve it.

Friday night I lost 5 hens because a fox broke into my hens house.

I wont stop until there is a bullet in him!

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Foxes are beautiful creatures and should be left alone, I hope some of you shooters kill each other because you deserve it.

 

Yes I agree they are beautiful creatures, but left uncontrolled the British wild life would suffer. Also the farmers, land owners and small holdings with chickens, lambs and ducks ect would be left with nothing. So before you have ago at people trying to look after wildlife and peoples welfare step back and think about it..

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I hope some of you shooters kill each other because you deserve it.

 

Yup.

Rational and balanced.

 

 

Chaps:

Please don't waste your time feeding trolls - just bring them to admin's attention.

:)

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To alfiemarley's comment.

In my part of London we can't move for them & are a pain in the proverbials! Yes, a healthy one is a quite attractive looking animal but destructive - like some people!! Not so the scabby, mangy ones. But despite everything I've tried so far I can't keep them out of my garden & if one ever even looks at my very old moggie....well, it'll be a case of "Goodbye foxy & thanks for playing"

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i cant believe i have hunted the smartest animal in the country for almost 30 years if i be honest with you all..

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