Breeding & Dispersal

Breeding and Dispersal

Many studies have been conducted into the dispersal patterns of foxes. Here are some of the key findings:

  • Cubs begin dispersing around late Autumn to find their own territories
  • The lower the number of foxes in an area, the further distance foxes will move
  • A high density of foxes means there will be less dispersal distance
  • Urban areas are more densely populated and so foxes travel a shorter distance than in rural areas. A study conducted in Bristol by Stephen Harris showed foxes in urban areas travelled just over a mile
  • Foxes in urban areas are less likely to disperse at all compared to rural foxes
  • Fox hunting in rural areas disturbs the foxes, forcing them to move.
  • Males are more likely to move off and travel slightly further than females, and both travel in a fairly straight line when dispersing
  • Dispersal is a dangerous time for foxes as there are risks from being killed on the roads, being shot, snared or killed in another way
  • Only around 40% of the cubs survive to the next Spring. Most survivors are those who stayed home to replace dead parents or moved off and found a vacant area following the death of the territory’s resident fox
  • Cub production is geared at replacing losses in adult fox population, as opposed to over-production of cubs

A Year In the Life: The Fox Calendar

A Summary of the main activities and behaviours of the fox during a typical calendar year period.

January – early mating season – the vixen will be in heat for 3 days. Gestation period of 53 days

February – Vixen looks for breeding earth, a suitable site for her pregnancy and early childcare

March – birth of cubs; dog-fox brings food to vixen; vixen stays with cubs for first 2 weeks as they are unable to maintain body heat. Cubs’ eyes and ears open after 2 weeks (blue eyes and poor vision)

April – cubs emerge from earth

May – cubs start to eat solid food – adults hunting for cubs

June – breeding earth abandoned/vixen stops lactating

July – adults bring less food for cubs; cubs begin to seek their own food

August – cubs able to forage for themselves

September – cubs fully grown

October – fox family group starts to break up

November – some conflict/fighting/territorial issues between adults/sub-adults and dispersal begins

December – foxes are most vocal and active, establishing and defending their territory as mating season approaches