Fox cubs are normally born in March and at 3 – 4 weeks old will wander outside their earth (den) during the day. The mother is not usually far away and keeps an eye on the cubs, but will not approach them if people are around. Fox cubs are always best left where they are. They have a far better chance of survival in the wild and should only be taken into captivity as a last resort.
DO NOT INTERFERE WITH ORPHANED FOX CUBS UNLESS THEY ARE INJURED OR IN GENUINE NEED
If a cub has already been moved, it must be returned to the site late on the following night, and released after a period of orientation in a wire basket. Its parents or other members of the family will then recover the cub.
When a cub has been released, the area should be searched after 24 hours to ensure that it has gone. Only if it is still present, should it be passed to a wildlife centre. This approach will not work for cubs younger than two weeks old, as they cannot regulate their body temperature.
If a vixen has been killed, the cubs can be helped with supplementary feeding at the location where they were born. The adult male and other members of the family also play an active role in feeding cubs. This will maximise the cubs’ chance of survival. Adult foxes play no role in the defence of the cubs. Leaving the cubs where they are therefore poses no additional risk to the cubs.
Note: In spring, the vixen will move cubs from one earth to another. If disturbed, she will come back for the cubs later. Vixens often lie up away from their cubs, only returning at night to feed them.
The approximate time period for fox cub development is:
Born in March – at birth cubs are blind and deaf with short black fur and they rely on the vixen to keep them warm.
At 2 weeks – their eyes and ears open and they are very unsteady on their feet
At 3 weeks – they become more active and move around a lot in their den
At 4 weeks [April] – the cubs appear above ground. They weigh 600 – 700 grams, are still dependent on the vixen’s milk but they begin to take regurgitated food from the vixen
At 5 – 6 weeks [late April/May] – the colour of their fur changes from chocolate brown to red; the ears and snout become longer. They start to search for earthworms, beetles and other insects to eat. The vixen produces less milk for the cubs.
At 6 – 7 weeks – the cubs are fully weaned
In June – the breeding earth is abandoned
In July – the cubs lie up above ground and adults bring them less food
In August – the cubs are able to search for food themselves and adults may lie up away from the cubs
In October – the fox family group begins to break up and the young foxes leave to find their own territory.
Recent studies have shown that the number of fox cubs being taken into wildlife centres is unnecessarily high. As is the case with fledgling birds that are not injured or sick, uninjured young foxes should generally be left alone.
Caution:- Handling of any animal either domestic, wild, dead or alive may be potentially hazardous. Obvious dangers include bites, scratches and general hygiene issues. Common sense should be applied in all instances and if unsure seek additional advice or assistance. Personal hygiene should be taken into consideration after handling any animal whether it is domestic, wild, dead or alive.