- By Norman Fine
Watch for a glimpses of red fox cubs hunting with their parents at about this time of year, suggests KRCU.org, a PBS-affiliate in Missouri.
As in much of this country, there are two species of foxes in Missouri—the red and the gray fox. Red foxes prefer the borders of forested areas and adjacent open lands while gray foxes live in denser wooded areas and fairly open brush land.
Though primarily nocturnal, foxes can often be seen during daylight hours this time of year. Since around March, the dog fox has been hunting overtime to feed himself and the vixen since the cubs were whelped. More recently, both he and the vixen have been hunting to feed themselves during the weaning process and to bring back to the den bones, scraps, and dead game for the cubs to taste and play with.
At birth, the pups are blind and helpless and weigh about three-and-a-half ounces. At about a month old, the pups begin to come out of the den and play in front of it with bones and left-over food items. They are fed here, too, by the adults. Although the parents carry away the droppings and foods that spoil, the outside of a fox den has an untidy appearance, like that of a quickly abandoned playground. Foxes also show the dog-like trait of rolling on strong-smelling objects. If the young are moved to another den, the parents frequently take play things along.
Sometime around Memorial Day or at about the age of ten weeks, the young begin to leave the den vicinity for the first time and accompany their parents on hunting trips. Starting now we should see the developing cubs on the move at times with their parents. Come September, the family will tend to break up with dog fox, vixen, and the developed cubs going their independent ways.
Because they often travel over the same routes, worn and well-marked trails develop. Foxes can run about twenty-six miles per hour at top speed but slow down after the initial spurt.
To keep track of current natural events, like when to watch for young fox kits on their first hunting expedition, you can get your own Natural Events Calendar from the Missouri Department of Conservation. Click for photos and details in Candice Davis’s article and links to other timely nature content.
Posted May 30, 2016