SOCIAL & FAMILY GROUPS
For a long time foxes were believed to be solitary creatures, only briefly coming together to breed during the mating period in late January/early February. It is now well-documented that they live in family groups, and have a complex and interactive social structure.
An adult fox and vixen may produce a litter every year they are together, although as the mortality rate among foxes is high, they rarely live long enough to produce more than one litter.
In addition to the family groups, there are other adult dog foxes who are not attached to the family, although may share some of their territories. They usually keep their distance from the family. It is estimated that these ‘bachelor’ foxes may make up around 30% of the adult dog fox population.
There may be more than 1 adult female in the family group, helping to raise the cubs. These are closely related to the breeding vixen, usually a sister or a daughter – much like our human aunties. The vixen’s breeding life is usually 3-4 years, after which a daughter who has stayed behind from the previous litter may take over as the primary breeding vixen. She will act as a surrogate mother if anything happens to the dominant vixen.
There are normally no more than 2 subordinate vixens in a family, but groups of up to 8 adult foxes have been reported and this may include more than one adult male.
- There are more likely to have subordinate vixens where food is plentiful and foxes aren’t subject to persecution
- The more food available in an area, the larger the family group tends to be. The larger the family group, the larger the amount of area can be defended
- There are also a number of roaming dog foxes who may have no specified territorial area. They usually keep their distance from the family groups, even though they may share some of their territory. It is estimated that these ‘bachelors’ may make up around 30% of all adult dog-foxes.