Foxing Time Begins!
The south marsh vixen is on the north marsh canoodling with Red Dog; I have seen their footprints together three days in a row. I found her north marsh lie-up today.
She and Red Dog will be busy chasing other foxes from their Wilden Marsh territory this month and getting reacquainted for mating.
Late December and January is the breeding season for Wilden Marsh foxes. The vixen is only sexually receptive for around three days, so Red will shadow her to make sure he doesn’t miss his opportunity. She will likely have a few safe and comfortable lie-up places. Red Dog will visit her frequently bearing gifts of food. If she wants anything, she will shout and Red Dog will come running. For the next six months, Red Dog will be run ragged trying to keep up with the vixen’s and cubs food demands. The vixen will help Red Dog with the hunting when she feels that she is able to leave the cubs alone at the den.
In February the vixen will be clearing out potential den sites, or she might dig a new den. Cubs are born in March and will appear aboveground in April. After the cubs are weaned, scraps of food will litter the area around the den. In recent years, the vixen has kept the den area clear of food scraps. In June, the den will likely be abandoned. The family will live above ground in thick vegetation.
The first photograph shows the entrance to the vixen’s lie-up under a rusting old metal gate. The second photograph is a rather indistinct image of the vixen’s and Red Dog’s paw prints. I wear high definition glasses when out photographing on the marsh and the paw prints are clear through these.
I found the vixen’s last birthing den under living tree’s roots and will do my best to find next year’s. She is a crafty vixen, though, and never uses the same den two years in a row. She might use a badger’s sett, a hole created by a fallen tree, or she might prefer to dig a new den. Finding her birthing sett is never easy and usually requires my wandering into all the inaccessible nooks and crannies around the marsh. I search for the vixen’s den with my nose, she has a very strong and unmistakable scent. Finding her den is no guarantee that I will be able to the film the cubs; she can relocate at the drop of a hat. It’s a very hit and miss affair trying to second guess a vixen. I have stumbled upon most of the dens I have filmed around, during April when the cubs were spending time above ground. Last year, I found the den when I spotted a cub poking its nose out of a hole under a tree root.