By autumn, the cubs begin to disperse. They start to spend more and more time away from the home den until they finally leave to find their own territories. In some cases, particularly in urban environments, one or more juvenile vixens will remain with the parents for a year. Sometimes referred to as “helper vixens”, these non-breeding foxes will assist in rearing their younger siblings by bringing extra food to the new family. On occasion, a helper vixen will continue to raise the cubs if the mother dies.
The accepted theory behind this altruism in female foxes is that the siblings carry half of the helper’s genes; therefore successfully raising a relative’s cubs can be preferable over a possibly unsuccessful attempt to raise one’s own. Some studies suggest that the presence of these helpers have little or no effect on the well being of the family group. Regardless, the experience a vixen acquires assisting in the rearing of her mother’s cubs undoubtedly proves useful in raising her own family at a later time. With regards to dispersion, the males leave earlier than the females and travel further, being less tolerated by their father. The young foxes will frequently invade the territories of other established foxes and get chased out. Eventually, they will either take over another fox’s range or find an unoccupied area of their own. At this point, the cycle begins anew, with foxes and vixens seeking out one another to begin a new generation.