Animal name: Fox
Habitat: Underground dens called ‘earths’
Lifespan: Up to nine years in the wild but the majority survive one to two years
Active: At night throughout the year
Family: Male is called a dog fox
Female is called a vixen
Babies/young are called cubs/pups/kits
Where do you find foxes?
The fox is the most adaptable of our carnivores and can be found in almost every habitat in Scotland from the countryside to urban areas.
Foxes are usually more abundant in the lowlands where more prey is available. Fox dens known as ‘earths’ are underground burrows dug out from scratch where the soil type allows, or created from enlarged rabbit warrens.
Unlike badgers, foxes do not bring bedding into the earth and fox cubs are born on bare ground. However, foxes do bring food back to breeding dens, so fur and feathers around the entrance indicate an earth rather than a badger sett or rabbit warren.
What do they eat?
A fox's diet is largely made up of insects and berries. Foxes will also eat small birds or mammals.
Like other omnivores, foxes are smart with their stockpile of food. If they come across a large supply of food, they will store anything they don’t eat right away to feed on later. So, they might take food you leave out and run off with it to eat later on.
Foxes are omnivores and will eat cooked or raw meat and pet food which you would feed to a dog or cat.
What threats do foxes face?
Although hunting wild mammals with dogs for sport is banned under the Wild Mammals Protection (Scotland) Act (2002), organised fox hunting still takes place.
We would like to see alternatives in the control of mammals as we strongly believe that using dogs to control any wild mammal, or for sport, has no place in modern society.
Many foxes also fall victim to fatal road traffic collisions or traps and snares.
What common problems/reasons lead to foxes being cared by the Scottish SPCA?
Foxes can suffer from mange; which is caused by a small mite that burrows under the skin. A fox suffering from mange will have bald patches over its body, the skin will look raw and scabby, and the fox will appear weak and wander aimlessly. It is unlikely for a dog to catch mange from a fox unless the dog came into direct contact with the fox.
Sadly, many of the reasons foxes come into our wildlife centre are man-made. The largest number of fox fatalities or injuries are as a result of road traffic accidents. Many foxes are also injured in traps or snares each year. These types of incidents can also result in orphaned cubs.
Well-meaning members of the public often move or interfere with cubs and unintentionally scare the mother away. These cubs then end up in our care, putting unnecessary pressure on services. The basic cost of caring for a fox cub is around £2.50 per day and we look after them until they are 5 months old. That works out at approximately £375 per cub on worming and feeding alone.
We often receive calls from people who have attempted to hand-rear wild animals with disastrous consequences. We’ve even had cases where people have kept fox cubs in their shed, only for the animals to become too much to handle once they grow into adults. Wild animals see humans as a threat, and any interaction will cause them a great deal of distress. Foxes are naturally wild and shouldn’t be raised at home or attempted to be kept as pets as it is not in the best interests of their welfare.
If you come across a fox cub, please do not take it in and try to raise it yourself. It is normal for vixens to leave cubs alone for periods whilst they hunt. Call our Animal Helpline on 03000 999 999 for advice before you interact with any fox cub and, if need be, we can take it to our National Wildlife Rescue Centre where it can be raised by experts to prepare it for life in the wild once it is old enough.
I've come across...
An injured or sick fox
If you can clearly see a fox or cub is injured or sick, contact our Animal Helpline immediately on 03000 999 999. We will give you advice and attend as quickly as possible. Do not do anything which could cause further stress to the injured fox or put you in danger.
Orphaned fox cub
If you come across a fox cub or a group of fox cubs, please do not disturb them. It's normal for a parent to leave them whilst hunting for food or looking for a new den to move to. If the cubs are noisy, that usually means they are hungry.
Monitor them from a safe distance. If they have their eyes fully open and their ears are pricked with no obvious signs of injury or distress, keep a safe distance and check back in an hour or two. Removing fox cubs from their den whilst the vixen is away can put mum under great stress. Observe for as long as possible to be sure the cubs need help.
If there is still no sign of an adult fox, give our Animal Helpline a call on 03000 999 999. We can give you advice and, if we think the cubs need it, dispatch an animal rescue officer to assist.
If you find a dead beaver, please contact NatureScot for advice.
We may arrange collection of specimens for post mortem and analysis or can advise if carcasses should be left or disposed of. It is an offence to possess a dead beaver.
Fox living in my garden
It is against the law to use any substance to deter foxes which has not been approved for such use and the Scottish SPCA will investigate any reports of foxes being harmed in this way.
If you have a persistent problem with foxes entering your garden, there is plenty of humane steps you can take to stop them without harming them.
Foxes will scavenge through litter and rubbish for food, so make sure your bins are secure and the lids are closed. Keep your garden clean and tidy. Foxes are at home in areas which offer great shelter, so an untidy and overgrown garden is great for that. A fox will also create a den under the likes of a shed or garage, so make sure there's no gaps under these if you have them.
Make sure there are no food sources in your garden, as foxes will return to a place time after time if there is a ready supply. You can also make sure your garden is secure by putting up fencing or prickly plants.
You should make sure you do all of the above before breeding season starts, which is from December to February.
Foxes are territorial animals, meaning if one leaves the territory which your garden is in, chances are another fox will turn up to claim it. You can try using an artificial scent-marker to deter a fox. If the fox thinks your garden is another fox's territory, the animal will be less likely to hang around.
How do we help foxes at the National Wildlife Rescue Centre?
Depending on their age, orphaned fox cubs are taken to our National Wildlife Rescue centre where they will be placed in one of our enclosures and paired with other young foxes while they are rehabilitated.
Very young cubs are hand reared round the clock by our dedicated team of staff. When they are big enough, fox cubs go into one of our large, outdoor, natural enclosures where they will complete their transition from being hand reared to totally wild before their eventual release into their natural habitat.
Older foxes who come to us with health conditions or injuries are given an enclosure where they can recuperate with little to no interference from the team, as this can be very stressful for a wild animal. Once any necessary veterinary treatment is complete and the fox is healthy enough to once again fend for themselves they are released.
We are always grateful for donations of wet food for cats and dogs or puppies and kittens as we need to get foxes and cubs to a healthy weight to give them the best chance when they’re released back in to the wild. You can donate to our nation wildlife rescue centre by purchasing from the Amazon wishlist or any other only retailer offering delivery.
Donations can also be dropped in to the Scottish SPCA Wildlife Rescue Centre in Fishcross, FK10 3AN.