Clip of the Week – red fox cubs playing

This clip features two red fox cubs (Vulpes vulpes) playing outside their den at dusk. It was filmed in Somerset (UK) in May, by Nick Upton.

The mating season for red foxes in the UK is December to February, when the female fox (vixen) can be heard at night uttering her eerie, high pitched cries. A litter of 4 – 6 kits (cubs or pups) are produced each year, though litters may be as large as 13. The kits’ eyes are open by 2 weeks of age and the kits usually take their first exploratory steps out of the den before 5 weeks. By 10 weeks they are fully weaned. When they are around 8 – 10 months old, they will leave their mother and disperse to find territories and mates of their own.

Nick Upton commented…

“I was photographing wildlife for a hotel just south of Bath with extensive, heavily wooded grounds, and got a tip from the estate manager that he’d seen a fox crossing a woodland track regularly, sometimes carrying prey. I guessed she had cubs to feed and soon found an old badger sett complex nearby which I guessed they were using – but which burrow was occupied? Fortunately, a very young cub tottered out of an entrance while I watched, so I knew where to put my time in and I spent many long hours in a camouflaged hide with a view of that burrow over the next few weeks. Up to six young fox cubs were often out in the late afternoons, playing and sleeping close to the burrow entrance, though often obscured by vegetation from my hide. I nearly didn’t run the camera for this clip as the light levels were so low, and they were partly hidden, but am glad I did as their playfulness and energy is so engaging.

Photographing fox cubs has to be done very carefully to ensure the family is not disturbed (mum can move the cubs if she is alarmed) but these foxes never became aware of me and the parents fed them a good distance away in dense cover. I passed on the chance to take a shot the only time mum came close for fear my shutter click would alert her, so she never did either. It was great fun watching them, if frustrating at times as the growing cubs began using about six different entrances to the old badger sett and kept popping up from ones hidden from my hide. They also began to range too far from their burrows for me to see them. With patience and persistence, though, I picked up a lot of engaging stills and some fun video clips and it was a real privilege to spend time watching and photographing them.”