January 2011 - The Red Fox
I’m sure we have all seen the wily fox at some time in our lives. They are common around Bawburgh and since they do not hibernate can be seen winter or summer. They are shy creatures and will disappear quickly if aware of human watchers nearby. Their life expectancy may be as long as 7 years especially in rural areas. Road kills are responsible for a large number of deaths. As foxes are nocturnal animals they are more commonly seen at dusk and night when hunting for food, but in the spring you can often see fox cubs playing during the day or in winter hungry foxes resorting to hunting for food during the day as well as during the night. Foxes do not have formal protected status although it is currently illegal to hunt them with dogs or trap them with self-locking snares. Foxes mark their territory with urine and faeces leaving a distinctive unpleasant smell which dogs seem to find irresistible (dog owners will only be too aware of this). Faeces may be found as typical grey/black droppings in prominent high places (such as on a wall or in our case on the top of the pond cascade or car bonnet). Foxes are opportunist feeders, feeding on rabbits, other small mammals, fruit and berries, earthworms and other invertebrates, carrion and household scraps. Surplus food is stashed by burying for digging up and eating later. Exactly what a fox eats depends on its location and time of year. Household scraps are the main food for foxes living in towns or cities such as Norwich, but here it is more naturally foraged food. They have excellent vision and sense of smell to help with their search for food. Foxes live in dens, called earths, which are either purpose dug or are disused homes of other animals. In urban areas they are often found living under garden sheds. A family may have several earths within their territory. Foxes breed between December and February and during this time become extremely vocal with hoarse barking and what can only be called screaming. To me it always sounds as if someone is being murdered – not a nice sound at all. Foxes can produce a range of about 28 different calls all meaning different things. Cubs are born between March and May. Both the dog fox (Reynard) and vixen help to rear and feed the cubs of which there may be four to seven in a litter.
I feel foxes get bad press. Usually it is humans which are to blame for their ever precocious behaviour in towns. Their attacks on chickens are just foxes doing what foxes do, killing to eat, not for fun. Extra birds killed in hen house killings would all be ‘stashed’ for later if the fox was given the opportunity to do so.
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