Red Fox vixens are giving birth to one to seven pups (usually three to five) in their underground dens at this time of year. The pictured pup is about four weeks old, and is starting to acquire its sand-colored coat. Red Fox pups are born with a temporary coat of dark grey-brown fur which we rarely see, as they stay in their den for the first month or so, where their mother provides warmth and milk. At the age of four weeks or thereabouts, the pups begin to emerge from the den and sit, nap and play near its entrance. At that time they grow a second coat that is very close to the color of the sandy terrain in which their den is usually dug. Their red coat, for which they are named, develops later in the summer.
Although it’s too early to see Red Fox pups, keep an eye out for active dens which are easiest to find where there is still snow on the ground, as the dirt around the entrance is usually visible. Males can sometimes be seen going back and forth, delivering food to the vixen and her pups.
The next Naturally Curious post will be 3/24/17.
Most raccoons in the Northeast are born in April or early May and spend the next seven weeks inside a tree cavity (brush piles and underground burrows are known but not prevalent denning sites) living off their mother’s milk. Four to six weeks go by before the young are able to stand upright, but soon thereafter they are climbing and hanging out of the cavity entrance. The young raccoons are in the process of being weaned when they leave their den at the age of seven weeks. For the next month or so the mother raccoon and her offspring forage together; by the age of five months the young are doing a lot of foraging on their own. Often the family remains together into the late fall or even winter. During cold winter weather, they typically will den together, and the following spring when the new litter arrives, the one-year-old raccoons disperse. (Thanks to Andrea Ambros for photo op.)