Tuesday 26 May 2009

Four cubs and a vixen

Calloo callay! Spotted tonight, bounding around in the long grass of Martins' uncut lawn; first Sandy, the groundbreaker. Then another very small cub. Then a third, and then Mama, shaking her head Mary Poppins-style and sitting down heavily under the palm tree to watch her brood. And then we noticed that two cubs were scrapping to our left. And another two to our right. Definitely four! That is,unless a last and shyest one has yet to appear.
They scamper and swivel like otters, like greyhounds: they are very fast and they love to chase, one of them had a ball of white paper, it appeared, and the others pursued and hunted it.
Wow, I love watching cubs play! And we have had a couple of years with no cubs.
This bunch we assume to be the young Stringfellow tribe: ominously, their Mama has a large bare patch of mange on her left haunch. I will dose their food carefully from now on...now we must choose names for all the cubs.
All are sandy, a surprisingly pale colour for a fox. Almost beige, some of them.
Sandy, big brother. What else is sandy or beige? beaches? deserts?
All suggestions gratefully received...

Sunday 24 May 2009


We have been seeing a half-grown cub in our garden and next door. He, or, of course, she, was first seen very shortly after the sad demise of Stringfellow. He is a good size and sometimes seen with an adult. If he was born, as most cubs are, around St Patrick's Day, he is better grown than some would be at this stage.
It is unusual that we have seen no others: a single-cub litter seems rare to us who have watched fox families for years. But it is possible that there is a more unpleasant explanation...
For the first few weeks after birth, the cubs remain underground in the breeding earth, with their mother. The dog fox brings food for her which he lays outside. Gradually the little foxes' blue eyes open and their chocolate brown fur becomes paler. After a while the vixen begins to leave them for short periods and the children, left alone, fight among themselves. This may account for the tumult of yelping, shrieking and growling that we have sometimes heard at dead of night very early in the year: I read somewhere that the cubs fight for dominance at this time and it may happen that the strongest one kills all the others.
Or possibly, Stringfellow and his missus just had a small family!
Whatever the reason, Sandy is so called because he is sandy in colour, quite pale for a fox cub, and full of mischief! He has been skittering around Martin's, exploring the lawn, sunbathing, and jumping around the adult that we presume is his mother, the quondam Mrs Stringfellow.
Fox cubs are as charming as puppies and kittens and just as lively: a delight to watch! Poor Mary Martin now has a garden full of ripped plastic bags, chewed shoes and food wrappers...ah well, kids grow up fast!

Friday 1 May 2009

Rest in peace

I heard along the neighbourly grapevine how Stringfellow's story ended. We last saw him crawling along the hedge of the house directly behind mine, on a Monday. Evidently he had a way through, for the following Wednesday, the mother of that household found a dead fox about midday on the grass verge in front of her house. She found that a local vet would not dispose of the body free of charge, but the body was eventually removed by the DSPCA. The description corresponds exactly with poor Stringfellow, who apparently hung on for about 48 hours from when we saw him.
Mange is a horrible, horrible thing: material for another post!