Over this long weekend, new observations were made of the American Red Foxes I’ve been following over on San Juan Island.
1. They use multiple dens which were former Cottontail dens, enlarged for their use, and with a “porch” built for shading from the elements.
2. Bella is in fact the same as Mrs. Salty, due to the confirmation of the first point above. She has lost an incredible amounts of weight, due to feeding 7 kits! They are now mostly weened off of milk, some eating more solids then others. The smaller of the two runts (there are two), I’ve named it Smudge, still looks for milk with her, and the two have a closer special bond. I’ve witnessed her scavenging a piece of apple that some tourist dumped (illegally feeding) by the look out point, she brought it back to Smudge to gnaw on, which he/she has yet to figure out biting off a piece of the apple.
3. We had indeed watched the same kits in different dens on different days on our trip in April, while the kits were around 4-5 weeks old (estimated). Thus my thinking there were two dens with two different females.
4. Bella/Mrs. Salty seemed to have gotten used my being, as she approached much closer to check out myself and my friend stationed with a little distance between us, on this recent trip over this long weekend.
5. I’ve since learned that the survival rate of the kits are greatly compromised at age 12-18 weeks as they head out with their parents to hunt, due to human interference (wire fences, getting hit by cars, human feeding, etc.) and perhaps getting lost and starving or eating harmful/toxic foods. This saddens me a bit, but does explain why there are such large numbers of kits, while so many adults around.
6. I’ve now observed them at around 8-9 weeks of age. a few of the kits were growing up larger and stronger than others, playing harder and displaying hunting instinctual behaviours on their own. I’ve also observed Salty showing them how to hunt with the use of ‘toys’, a large piece of floppy tree bark and a clump of root/grass. The kits toss, pounce, and shake/gnaw on these, and when left unplayed, Salty retrieves it back to the main den.