Over more than twenty years we have been rescuing foxes, we have noted that in January calls seem to peak with regards to foxes suffering from front leg injuries mainly the paws. We believe this is due to January being the peak of the breeding season When foxes fight for a territory or the right to breed and need to sort out who is the boss, they adopt a 'Fox Trot' Dance like pose where two foxes stand up on their back legs and their front paws balance on the shoulder of the other fox. With mouths wide open they often scream at each and the one it seems who maintains the highest pose wins, this all takes place with rarely any blood spilled. If however you have two equal ranking foxes or two foxes of the same size and weight fighting for dominance it is possible that bites will be dished out and sometimes this fight can lead to death. We feel it is during this stage, where both foxes have their front paws resting so close to the jaw of the other fox, that injuries can be inflicted. In the Image posted up (Illustration by David Hall) it would be the fox on the left that would prove to be the more dominant of the two.
January is usually the month of unrest within the fox family - not only is it the peak of the mating season, but also the peak dispersal season too. Cubs that were born last year, now adults, will be seen as a threat to the breeding rights and the available food supply of their parents. Any sub-adults who have failed to disperse will usually be continually chased away. Many of the sub-adults will actually leave of their own accord in search of a territory and a mate of their own. The resident dog fox and vixen will be actively defending the territory against intruders, both physically and vocally. They do this by barking and urinating and defecating along the borders of their territory.
Since it’s the breeding season the dog fox will shadow the every move of the vixen, she is only receptive for a period of about 3 days. From the dog fox's point of view, he must ensure he is there when she is ready. Several attempts to mount the vixen will be rebuffed, sometimes quite aggressively. However, when she is ready she flirts around the dog fox. Caution at this stage is thrown to the wind, and many people will observe the foxes in the process of mating. When the vixen is ready the dog fox will grasp her from behind with his front two legs and start to mate. It is said that at this point the dog fox’s penis is not totally erect until he has actually entered the vagina when it becomes completely erect and the base of it begins to swell. Also, the vixen's vagina will constrict. This swelling and constriction will cause the pair to lock together, commonly called the 'tie'. When the dog fox ejaculates he attempts to dismount, but as they are still locked together he brings one of his back legs over the vixen’s back and there they stand, back to back, for the duration of the tie, possibly for hours. Through instinct the vixen will start to prepare an earth prior to giving birth; in a town environment it’s likely the chosen place will be under a garden shed. In the countryside, disused rabbit warrens are common, as are badger setts. Between 51 - 53 days later, the fox cubs will be born.
From previous years we have noted that calls peak regarding 'tied foxes' between 17th - 22nd of January. With all the new activity ie breeding season and dispersal many people will note for themselves that despite the availability of food put down by them, on many occasions, the food will still remain the next day. Proving that food availability will not necessarily mean more foxes in any given area, and regardless of these handouts the foxes themselves will control their own numbers. A family of cubs could have been coming to a garden for food each and every day of the week and regardless of these easy pickings, once old enough, they will disperse or be pushed out of the territory by their parents. Despite all the handouts, despite all the food available to foxes in our towns and cities, litter sizes have remained stable for many years, averaging between 4 - 5 cubs born and the fox population despite some recorded highs and lows has also remained stable.