Nature Diary: The urban foxes of Ireland

These wild animals are now a common sight at night when they come out in search of food

Like dogs, foxes have excellent hearing but their eye sight works best in low light. Photograph: Getty Images

Like dogs, foxes have excellent hearing but their eye sight works best in low light. Photograph: Getty Images

 

Although foxes now live in urban areas and are sometimes found scrounging for food in dustbins, it’s still exciting to see these wild animals crossing through gardens or along road sides at night-time.

One of Ireland’s most common mammals, they spend most of the day in their dens – dug out earthen tunnels or nests under water drains, in rock crevices and even under buildings.

Like dogs, they have excellent hearing but their eye sight works best in low light. Usually solitary nocturnal hunters, they stride, canter or sprint over long distances in search of food using scent-marked pathways.

Mating season

In Ireland, the red fox mating season runs from January to the middle of March. During the mating season, foxes become more vocal with courtship rituals ranging from body postures to scent spraying to fighting with other males. Female foxes (vixens) are only fertile for about three days each year – in the depths of winter.

To signal that she is in heat, a vixen will give out a shrill squeal which sounds unnervingly like a human scream. The litter, usually about six cubs, arrives about 50 days after conception.

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