Watching garden foxes is always an uncertain process. Some years there are several foxes, at other times they seem to vanish into the undergrowth and are barely seen. At the moment we have one regular visiting fox, a vixen who we’ve named Lopa. She’s about 2 years old, and last year appeared to give birth to her first litter. What happened is uncertain, but she very quickly abandoned or lost the cubs. She’s been pregnant again this year, and the initial signs are that she’s feeding some young. It’s too early to know whether she’ll persist, or indeed whether we will get to see any cubs but the early signs are good.
Foxes have a period of gestation of around 7 weeks, and generally the vixen will go to ground for a few days after giving birth. Urban foxes seem to leave the earth more readily, maybe because their range is much smaller or that the risk of predators is lower. I don’t really know, but most years we see vixens emerge on their own within about a week of birthing. What is known is that foxes are generally familial and that a vixen will often be supported by a second (non-breeding) female and the male fox. At this time of year foxes can often be seen rushing around, scavenging food or carrying prey.
Lopa more or less disappeared from view at the beginning of March. She made very brief appearances in the first week of the month (which is when I think she gave birth), and then more extended visits to the garden around the end of the second week, which is when the above photo was taken. You can see very clearly that she’s lactating. During the visit when I took that photo she was on high alert much of the time.
I don’t expect to see any sign of her cubs for several weeks, but we should get an idea of how things are progressing from her behaviour. And it will very obvious if she’s feeding a brood.