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Fox Cubs 101: Growth Stages, Feeding, & Care
Compared to humans, foxes grow up fast. While it takes years for a human to be able to learn basic self-survival skills, foxes learn everything they need to know in about a year. Granted, it’s a very busy and eventful year. But in that time, a fox will go from being a cub that’s entirely reliant on its mother and can’t even open its eyes, to a fully grown predator that’s ready to produce some cubs of its own.
Everything Starts in Spring
For foxes, life begins in the spring. The highest concentration of foxes are born in March in the northern hemisphere or September in the southern hemisphere; right at the beginning of the spring season.
Baby foxes are called pups, kits or cubs and when they’re first born, they are tiny! They weigh about ¼-pound and are approximately 4 inches long, covered in short black fur. They’re also completely helpless. At this stage, a baby fox can’t even open its eyes. They’re entirely reliant on the adults, and will only consume their mother’s milk for the first 4 weeks.
The newborn cubs rely on the mother’s milk for nourishment until they reach a few weeks old. Once cubs can open their eyes, they’ll start to explore the den. Once this happens, they’ll start eating scraps of solid food brought back to the den by the male.
When Do Baby Foxes Leave The Den
Once the cubs become familiar with their surroundings within the den, they will become curious about the things that lie outside of their cozy home. However, cubs won’t start to leave the den until they’re more than a month old. Even still, they won’t stray far, staying very close to the safety of the den.
What Does a Baby Fox Look like
Fresh fox pups are born without hair. They are a dark grey in skin tone and are usually blind and deaf. Their senses begin to develop after 2 weeks when they also start to sprout black fuzz. Soon after birth, they begin to molt their black fuzzy fur and a red coat grows in its place. The fox’s face begins to mature and look more fox-like, with the ears and snout starting to grow longer. Cubs are now very active, playing with each other all the time and chewing on anything they can find.
12 Weeks & Beyond
Once the cubs reach 12 weeks of age, they’re forced to start foraging for themselves. At first, they follow the adults to learn how. Sadly, many cubs die during this stage. But by 16-18 weeks of age, the surviving cubs are strong and able to feed themselves without any problem. However, manage to stay relatively close to the den for safety. It will be several months before they start exploring the entire area and venturing away from home.
When Do Baby Foxes Leave Their Mother
From this point, growth is rapid. By the time the cubs are six months old, they’re very difficult to tell apart from the adults. After one full year, they are no longer considered infants, and these baby foxes can leave their mother and begin a life of their very own. When winter rolls around, the cubs are mature and ready to breed. They will mate during the winter months, then find a suitable den in which to birth a new litter of cubs. Then, the process starts all over again with new young, which will follow the same patterns their parents did.
A fox’s growth stages are all compressed into one event-filled year. They start the year with their eyes closed, unable to fend for themselves in any way. By the end of that first year, they’re fully-grown adults, ready to create a new litter of their own cubs. They’ll mate in the winter and the cycle repeats in the spring. Unfortunately, less than half of all foxes make it through this first year to reach maturity, which is why there are 3-7 foxes per litter on average.
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Feature Image Credit: Torsten Reuter, Shutterstock
Nicole is the proud mom of Baby, a Burmese cat and Rosa, a New Zealand Huntaway. A Canadian expat, Nicole now lives on a lush forest property with her Kiwi husband in New Zealand. She has a strong love for all animals of all shapes and sizes (and particularly loves a good interspecies friendship) and wants to share her animal knowledge and other experts’ knowledge with pet lovers across the globe.