thumbnail_photo fox cub
Fox cub

It always amazes me to read about some of the incredible wildlife encounters people seem to have.

“I was walking my daughter to school and this eagle just landed in front of us and sat for a bit”
“My urban middle-terraced garden in the centre of a huge busy city has attracted a large family of badgers who have had cubs and play all day on the lawn”
“I went outside my front door today and there was a weasel out there who casually invited me to dinner with its entire family”

Some people just seem to have incredible opportunities just fall into their lap. I am jealous of those people, as it sees that I have to work very hard to enjoy wildlife. A lot of hours are spent out walking, exploring, looking very hard to get the opportunity to see certain species.

Some of this may be due to living in a more rural area. Urban wildlife is more confident, spending a lot of time around humans and getting used to their presence, to the point that they are less fearful when in close proximity. A lot of the wildlife that I lives in large rural areas where they do not have to encounter humans if they don’t wish and as a result, will make themselves scarce at the first sign of homosapien activity.

One such example of this is the shy little fox family that I visit at Releath. The skulk, which seems to be made up of 2 adults and 2 cubs, have a range which appears to consist of a group of large fields, separated by old Cornish walls and occasionally the home of some very curious cows. This is quite common for red foxes, who live in family groups in a range marked by adult urine. The ranges can vary in size, depending on availability of food and size of family. They can be anything from 4 – 5,000 ha, and this can change seasonally as abundance of food adjusts.

The area this family enjoys sits in a valley, which means spotting them can be notoriously difficult; they have an excellent view of everything around them, so they see me very quickly and easily, giving them the opportunity to slink of quickly if they wish. Despite knowing when and where they will be, I try to visit the area sporadically and little; I don’t want to make this little group uncomfortable in their own home and always try to keep my distance.

I hadn’t known about the youngsters until recently. Usually when I enter the fields, sticking to the walls around the outside, I only see the adults. They watch me, their large, piercing eyes not moving from me for a second, interpreting my movements. When they decide I have come to close, they will turn and move off quickly, stopping to survey me once more. At this point I usually stop walking, not wishing to drive them out of the area which is theirs, the area I am invading.

On a recent trip however, the adult fox slunk away through the bushes and after waiting for a time, I decide to wander further down the field to where it had been, curious to see if it had been up to anything. The fields are also home to large numbers of rabbits, the area often looking like a friendlier scene from Watership Down, so the foxes will likely feed well and they certainly all look healthy enough. As I walked down to the mess of entangled brambles at the bottom of the field, I noticed a large hole in the middle – their little gateway between worlds.

As I turned to head back off in another direction, I froze, not daring to move. Just in front of me, about a metre away, sat a tiny bundle of orange fur, ears which looked too large for it, sat atop its round head, finished off with dark, soft triangles. The fox cub hadn’t noticed me and I didn’t want to move, acutely aware that any action I made would frighten it. I stood for what seemed like forever just watching as it cleaned itself, gazed around itself lazily and curled up for a doze…

All of a sudden, an adult bounded across the grass towards us, slipping past and under the hedgerow. The little cub sat up, ears pricked towards the sky and watched it, realising that something was up. It looked back to where the adult had come from, as did I, not seeing anything. The cub however, its head now stretched round the left, must have caught sight of me out of the corner of its eye, and it turned its head fully, locked eyes with mine and quick as a flash, ran after its parent into the hedge.

The sweetest back of a head I have ever seen!
The sweetest back of a head I have ever seen!

I began to walk away very quickly, sorry to have caused such an intrusion but as I did I heard not one, but 2 cub voices, squealing with each other as they  played under the safety of the bramble.

I hot-footed it back to my car as dusk settled around me and switching on my head lights, drove home under a cloud of bats.

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