I have been simultaneously monitoring a fox family and a badger family on my trail cameras over the last few weeks, which has provided a fascinating insight into their daily lives.
Both the fox den and badger sett are in woodland close to my home, with the fox family comprising of six cubs, whilst the badgers have five youngsters.
The foxes gave me cause for concern when I first started filming them at the end of April as the vixen was limping badly, carrying an injury to her front paw. The cubs were totally dependent upon her at this stage and were she to become unable to catch food because of her disability, then there was a real danger the whole family would perish.
Thankfully, the injury quickly healed, and the family has prospered ever since. This vixen was a cautious mother and when her initial denning site was inadvertently disturbed by dog walkers, she moved the cubs to another den in a more secluded part of the wood.
I have studied foxes for most of my life, and I am always acutely aware just how sensitive a vixen is to any disturbance around her den, so when setting my trail camera, I always do so with extreme care, making sure I don’t cross any of her approach trails, where she might pick up my scent.
The cubs quickly settled into their new den, and over the following few weeks, I watched spellbound as my trail camera videos revealed the frenetic activity of the youngsters, which involved much rough and tumble play. Such boisterous behaviour has a serious side to it, for it helps to hone their skills for pouncing and hunting, so crucial for their future survival.
While foxes are skittish and will desert their den on the slightest whim, badgers are tied to their traditional setts, which they can occupy for generations, resulting in their homes becoming large and impressive complexes of tunnels and excavations. Young badgers are also very playful, and can be quite noisy, with the audio on my trail camera frequently picking-up their high-pitched chattering.
It can be hard work looking after young badgers, and in one hilarious film clip, the frustrated mother grabbed a cub by the scruff of its neck with her jaws and then dragged it unceremoniously down a slope where the rest of the family was playing together.
In the middle of May, the fox cubs suddenly left their den once more and moved elsewhere. I suspect the prolonged dry weather, combined with the increasingly cramped confines of the underground den, made them opt for a surface-living existence by lying-up under tree roots and other thick cover nearby.
Initially, I was tempted to seek them out, but on reflection decided to let them be, as I had no wish to unintentionally disturb these wonderful animals, especially since they had given me so much pleasure over the previous few weeks.
Fox dens and badger setts often look similar. One way to tell them apart is a fox den has a musky odour and will often have prey remains scattered nearby such as bird wings and animal bones.
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