I have a very sad and almost upsetting tale to tell, but something so unique that it should be recorded.
There is a big, long established Badger sett near the wood, one that is so long-established that some of the tunnel entrances are some 25 metres apart. It is un-mistakable, on a steep hill, with vast piles of soil and rubble and large rounded tunnels, remarkably similar to our London Underground.
It was just a routine check, but suddenly I was aware of movement above. The tail and backside of a young Fox, the rest obscured by being down a hole at the base of an Oak. It dragged something up which it preceded to eat, only to go down again and the process was repeated. By this time a good fifteen minutes had passed, the Fox still totally unaware of my presence. The next time, instead of eating the creature, it threw it about, tossing it into the air and watching it land with a soft slap. It was then that I realised that the prey were baby Badgers, still almost foetus-like, long, soft, sightless and barely covered by hair. Suddenly the Fox looked up from its game, spotted me, picked up its prey and scampered away.
The fox is a remarkably adaptable and successful animal found, where food is plentiful, in almost every habitat. It is a success because it is willing to eat almost anything and has become particularly adept at surviving alongside man in farmland and urban areas. The coat colour can be extremely variable – usually reddish-brown on top with lighter undersides, but much darker or even silvery forms are not uncommon.
The mating season is December to February when the vixen can be heard at night uttering its eerie, high pitched scream. Four or five cubs are born in the Spring and the female fox stays with them in the ‘earth’ for two weeks, fed by the dog fox. They remain with their mother until the Autumn when they disperse to find territories and mates of their own.
The life expectancy of the fox is short; 12 – 18 months in urban areas, (58% are killed on the roads) and rarely beyond 3 years in rural areas.