Fox Cubs 2021 Part 2: Feeding Time

I’ve been watching families of foxes visit our garden for over 15 years and in that time I have only seen a vixen feeding her young via remote trail cam footage, and even then only very rarely. Our latest vixen, Stumpy, is generally more cautious than some others we’ve seen; and although she lets us know she is around she rarely approaches too close, always allowing a self-determined distance at which she is relaxed (somewhere in the region of 10-15 feet). Despite that caution (or maybe because of it) she has provided one of my best moments of watching these fascinating animals.

I took the following sequence of photos on 22nd April, only the second time I’d seen Stumpy with her brood. The cubs were born very early March (estimated) and so are around 7 weeks old in these photos. I was about 20 feet away, keeping very still and hoping that the remote flash unit was positioned well enough to throw some light on the scene. The sequence begins when a couple of cubs start pestering mum.

A couple of fox cubs start to pester mum
It quickly became clear what they wanted

I don’t think Stumpy was too comfortable being quite so exposed in the centre of the garden. She quickly ushered both cubs over to a corner where there is more undergrowth and cover. She may have also been aware of the rest of the brood, which quickly emerged to surround her.

Stumpy surrounded by her brood

It very quickly became clear that the cubs wanted feeding, and Stumpy was happy to oblige. I just held my breath!

The cubs start feeding
Stumpy was making low grunting sounds throughout this sequence
Close up of fox cubs feeding from their mother
Close-up of two of the cubs feeding

I watched Stumpy feeding the young cubs for several minutes before she moved off to a neighbouring garden, with the brood following. I felt privileged to have witnessed the scene which is undoubtedly one of the highlights of many years of observation.

A few nights later the trail camera caught a short video sequence of her feeding the cubs. She was partially out of shot, but there’s enough in frame to make it worth posting. It’s just a 10 second clip.

Camera note: all photos taken with the Canon 1DX Mark II and EF 70-200mm f/4.0L IS II USM lens.

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6 Comments

  1. Darko May 26, 2021 at 2:17 am #

    Special moment indeed! I never saw fox breastfeeding cubs, I thought she would lay down but maybe it is how they do it when predators are around.
    Nice set of photos!

    • Words May 28, 2021 at 12:50 am #

      They lay down when the cubs are smaller, but at this age I think it’s all she can do to fight the impulse to run away from them!

  2. Ms Aurora J Stone May 27, 2021 at 2:49 pm #

    Lovely photos, the blue of forget-me-nots are a nice contrast to the russet of the foxes.

    • Words May 28, 2021 at 12:51 am #

      Thanks! Those flowers are fading now and I’m beginning to tidy up that corner. It was getting so overgrown I could barely see the foxes.

  3. Fi Dwyer May 29, 2021 at 5:50 am #

    Lovely photos Paul. I have never seen a video feeding her cubs. We continue to feed the foxes from the cemetery at night and often see them hoofing it down in our front garden . Love to you both .

    • Words June 2, 2021 at 12:51 am #

      Thanks Fi. The cubs are lovely this year. Sounds like you have a good regular set of foxes too 🙂 They are so sweet to watch. Love too, to you both!