January 16, 2011

Bloody foxes

January is peak mating season for foxes, and right now the streets around us echo at night to their unearthly sounds. The alarming scream is produced by the vixen and is used to call dog foxes to a 'clicketting'; they also emit a 'contact bark' to keep in touch with each other. Several dog foxes will usually arrive to a clicketting, and compete for the vixen's attention. Sometimes this involves fighting, but as that's a high-risk strategy for a wild animal the winner will more usually be decided by posturing and threats.

After mating the dog and vixen remain together. Pregnancy lasts for around 53 days, and during that time the pair will choose a den. When the cubs are born the dog fox will bring food for the nursing vixen, who remains with the cubs until early June, when they usually emerge. The family will stay together, both parents teaching the cubs how to hunt and survive, until late September when the young foxes must disperse and, if they survive, establish territories of their own.