The peak period for fox cubs is during April and May when the new litters start to explore the world. Each year during spring and early summer the RSPCA faces the difficult task of rearing more than 100 cubs - the average stay in a wildlife centre is two to three months. These are often brought in by well-meaning people who believe the cubs have been abandoned.
It is not uncommon to see month-old cubs playing and developing survival skills above ground in the daylight. It is quite normal for them to wander in or around patches of cover above ground. Parents or close relatives are usually nearby so please don’t be tempted to ‘rescue’ them. Vixens may also move their litter if they feel the earth (den) has been disturbed. This will involve carrying the cubs one by one to a safer place. Occasionally you may find a litter at a halfway point waiting for their mother to come back and pick them up.
If you see a fox cub on its own, here are some tips to help you decide how to help it:
- If its eyes are open, the cub is probably fine. The parents will usually be nearby to care for it, but even if it has lost a parent, other members of the family group will probably be looking after it. Leave the cub alone and check the spot again after 24 hours.
- If you find an uninjured fox cub on a road or somewhere very exposed or dangerous, you could move it to a sheltered or safe spot nearby. Try to handle the cub as little as possible. Check the spot again after 24 hours and you will probably find it has been taken to safety by its parents.
- After 24 hours, if the cub is still in the same safe spot, it is still often better to leave it alone in the wild. It will have a better chance of surviving if you do. You could help by leaving some tinned dog food and water nearby.
- If the animal is obviously sick or injured take it to the nearest veterinary surgery, but keep handling to a minimum, or contact the RSPCA for advice via our 24-hour cruelty and advice line 0300 1234 999.
- If you feel you must take the cub from the area yourself, handle it as little as possible and make a note of the exact location where you found it. Foxes that become used to humans do not survive well in the wild.
IMPORTANT: There is evidence to show that apparently orphaned but uninjured fox cubs left in the wild and given supplementary food are likely to survive longer than cubs reared in captivity and carefully released.
For more information, read the RSPCA’s Living with foxes (PDF 72KB) information sheet.
Caution:- Handling of any animal either domestic, wild, dead or alive may be potentially hazardous. Obvious dangers include bites, scratches and general hygiene issues. Common sense should be applied in all instances and if unsure, seek additional advice or assistance. Personal hygiene should be taken into consideration after handling any animal, whether it’s domestic, wild, dead or alive.