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What Do Fox Cubs Eat?

Fox cubs are normally born in March and need to learn how to hunt for their own food in order to survive. By late April or May, the small cubs can be seen coming out of their dens and playing. Play is a fantastic way for cubs to learn how to hunt and is essential for their survival.

Foxes are omnivores and will eat almost any food. For the first four weeks, cubs will feed on milk, and for the next month rely on solid food brought to them by adults. As summer progresses they learn to hunt with their parents before leaving the family group in autumn or winter.

In this article, I look at the cubs’ early life and what they eat.

Foxes communicate using sound, smell, and body language.  Find out more here

Fox cubs

First Few Weeks

Cubs are usually born around late March, and there are usually are four or five to each litter. Foxes are born blind and deaf and covered in black fur, looking nothing like what they will become. The first two weeks of a cub’s life are spent with the vixen who only leaves the den to urinate or defecate.

The adult male does all the hunting in the first few weeks and brings food to the vixen. Males are very careful not to upset the female who is protecting the young and will drop the food near to the female before retreating quickly.

It takes about two weeks for the cubs to open their eyes and to be able to hear sound. Their vision is very poor to start with but gets better quickly. As they start to see they also learn to crawl and can be a handful for the vixen.

Cubs are dependent on the vixen’s milk for the first four weeks of life. The fur on the mother’s belly is lost as the cubs feed and pull away at it. Foxes have four sets of nipples, allowing all the cubs to feed at the same time. If there are only one or two cubs born then only the rear couple of pairs produce milk.

When the cubs are very young they feed with the mother laying down. As they start to crawl and walk, the vixen will stand up allowing them easier access.

Want to know how fox cubs learn from their parents? Find out here

Four Weeks Onwards

Cubs can normally be seen above ground after about four weeks in late April or early May. The cubs will start to eat solid food at this time but they will not stray far from their den. They will usually start the move to solid food by eating food that the mother has regurgitated. Small birds, bread, and bones may also be eaten depending on what the parents bring them.

Any carcasses that they find will also be eaten, although young foxes may have a hard time tearing these apart without the help of their parents. Cubs will also continue to feed on milk until they are about six weeks old, although some have been seen trying to get milk up to three months after birth.

While the cubs are living in or around the den for the first few months, the adults will bring them food. Pigeons, hedgehogs, chickens, squirrels, rats, mice, and small birds all make a good meal for foxes. Den sites often contain a large number of bones strewn around in May and June.

Urban garbage such as fast food boxes and fries wrappers are brought back due to their smell and the taste of grease and fat.

Small wild birds make up the main part of the diet of fox cubs, with insects, meat bones, earthworms, small mammals, and fruit and vegetables all being easy meals.

As the weather becomes hotter in early June, foxes move away from their dens to cooler areas. Less food is brought back by the adults and the young now have to learn how to hunt their own food in order to survive.

As they become more independent, the cubs will forage by themselves or with adults. However, as they are still learning it is not as easy to catch food as the adults.

Cubs learn to hunt by feeding on easy-to-catch prey and earthworms are usually their first hunt in late May or early June. Other ground insects such as beetles also make up a large part of their diet due to the ease that they can catch them.

Foxes are very busy in the summer months.  Find out what they do here

Autumn

The cubs will continue to learn how to hunt from their parents during the summer months and by Autumn they are ready to leave the family group.

Foxes will are omnivores and will feed on almost anything. However, their diet does depend on their habitat as those in urban areas have a different diet from their cousins living in the country.

As to be expected, urban foxes are more reliant on human garbage and food that is thrown away. This makes an easy, although not a normally nutritious meal for the young fox. Bones, usually chicken, make up a large part of an urban foxes’ diet, although wild birds and mammals also make up a considerable portion.

The diet of a fox depends on the time of year. Autumn is an especially good time for fruit and a large amount of fruit is consumed by foxes, while in spring they mainly eat birds as this is when most young birds fledge.

Rats and pigeons are also eaten in large quantities, especially around industrial areas, while in areas with lots of restaurants, foxes can feed on higher-quality, but not as nutritious human food.

Foxes that live in the country do not have the same advantages that urban foxes do when it comes to finding an easy meal, however, they are probably more healthy because of this.

Scavenged bones make up a large portion of their diet, but they also feed on a large number of small mammals such as mice, voles, and moles. Fruit and vegetables such as apples, pears, and plums are all tasty snacks for young foxes.

You may have seen foxes but do you know where they live?  Find out in this article I wrote

Fox in winter

Winter

Red foxes have excellent hearing with ears that point outwards. Food is more difficult to come by in winter but every morsel is worth the struggle in order to survive. Foxes can hear a mouse squeaking one hundred meters away, leaping on it after tracing the footsteps they leave behind in the snow. 

In winter, foxes mainly feed on small mammals such as mice, squirrels, and rabbits that are also trying to find food. Insects are not as easy to find but still make up a big part of their diet.

Foxes will also cache their food for winter in order to survive. Surplus food is hidden in unique places called a cache for use in winter when there is a limited food supply.

Foxes start to cache from a very young age, with foxes as young as six weeks old seen caching food brought back by their parents. Even pet foxes are known to do this, even without any adult supervision. While the nicest foods seem to be eaten straight away by foxes, other food is often put into a cache. These caches help foxes survive a harsh winter.

Want to know how red foxes survive winter? Find out here