Foxes: Nature’s Oppotunistic Hunters
By Obiabin Onukwugha
Foxes are small to medium-sized, omnivorous mammals belonging to several genera of the family Canidae. Foxes are generally smaller than some other members of the family Canidae such as wolves and jackals
Male foxes are known as dogs, tods or reynards, females as vixens, and young as cubs. Scientists say a fox’s coat color and texture may vary due to the change in seasons; fox pelts are richer and denser in the colder months and lighter in the warmer months.
Foxes live on every continent except Antarctica. The most common and widespread species of fox is the red fox (Vulpes vulpes) with about 47 recognized subspecies. The global distribution of foxes, together with their widespread reputation for cunning, has contributed to their prominence in popular culture and folklore in many societies around the world.
In the wild, the typical lifespan of a fox is one to three years, although individuals may live up to ten years. Unlike many canids, foxes are not always pack animals. Typically, they live in small family groups, but some (such as Arctic foxes) are known to be solitary
Foxes are omnivores. Their diet is made up primarily of invertebrates such as insects and small vertebrates such as reptiles and birds. They may also eat eggs and vegetation.
Foxes cache excess food, burying it for later consumption, usually under leaves, snow, or soil.While hunting, foxes tend to use a particular pouncing technique, such that they crouch down to camouflage themselves in the terrain and then use their hind legs to leap up with great force and land on top of their chosen prey. Using their pronounced canine teeth, they can then grip the prey’s neck and shake it until it is dead or can be readily disemboweled.
Foxes tend to have an average litter size of four to five with an 80 percent success rate in becoming pregnant. Once the egg is fertilized, the vixen enters a period of gestation that can last from 52 to 53 days.
Foxes have different vocalisation.
Whine – Made shortly after birth. Occurs at a high rate when kits are hungry and when their body temperatures are low. Whining stimulates the mother to care for her young; it also has been known to stimulate the male fox into caring for his mate and kits.
Yelp- Made about 19 days later. The kits’ whining turns into infantile barks, yelps, which occur heavily during play.
Explosive call- At the age of about one month, the kits can emit an explosive call which is intended to be threatening to intruders or other cubs; a high-pitched howl.
Combative call – In adults, the explosive call becomes an open-mouthed combative call during any conflict; a sharper bark.
Growl- An adult fox’s indication to their kits to feed or head to the adult’s location.
Bark – Adult foxes warn against intruders and in defense by barking.
Called “Nyanwuruede”, in Igbo, and “kọlọkọlọ” in Yoruba, foxes help to control populations of their prey animals, such as rodents and rabbits. They also disperse seeds by eating fruit.
The Fox and the Cat
Once upon a time in a certain forest lived a fox, and near to the fox lived a man who had a cat that had been a good mouser in its youth, but was now old and half blind. The man didn’t want the cat any longer, but didn’t also want to kill it, do he took it out into the forest and lost it there.
Then one day the fox came up and said, ehat brings you here? “Alas!” said the cat “my master loved me as long as I could bite, but now that I can bite no longer and have left off catching mice and I used to catch them finely once, he doesn’t like to kill me, but he has left me in the wood where I must perish miserably.”
“No, dear Pussy!” said the fox; “you leave it to me, and I’ll help you to get your daily bread. “You are very good, dear little sister foxey!” said the cat, and the fox built him a little shed with a garden round it to walk about in.
Now one day the hare came to steal the man’s cabbage. “Kreem-kreem-kreem!” he squeaked. But the cat popped his head out of the window, and when he saw the hare, he put up his back and stuck up his tail and said, “Ft-t-t-t-t-Frrrrrrr!” The hare was frightened and ran away and told the bear, the wolf, and the wild boar all about it.
“Never mind,” said the bear, “I tell you what, we’ll all four give a banquet, and invite the fox and the cat, and do for the pair of them. Now, look here! I’ll steal the man’s mead; and you, Mr Wolf, steal his fat-pot; and you, Mr Wildboar, root up his fruit-trees; and you, Mr Bunny, go and invite the fox and the cat to dinner.”
So they made everything ready as the bear had said, and the hare ran off to invite the guests. He came beneath the window and said, “We invite your little ladyship Foxey-Woxey, together with Mr Shaggy Matthew, to dinner” and back he ran again. “But you should have told them to bring their spoons with them,” said the bear. “Oh, what a head I’ve got! if I didn’t quite forget!” cried the hare, and back he went again, ran beneath the window and cried, “Mind you bring your spoons! “Very well,” said the fox.
So the cat and the fox went to the banquet, and when the cat saw the bacon, he put up his back and stuck out his tail, and cried, “Mee-oo, mee-oo!” with all his might. But they thought he said, “Ma-lo, ma-lo!” “What!” said the bear, who was hiding behind the beeches with the other beasts, “here have we four been getting together all we could, and this pig-faced cat calls it too little! What a monstrous cat he must be to have such an appetite!”
So they were all four very frightened, and the bear ran up a tree, and the others hid where they could. But when the cat saw the boar’s bristles sticking out from behind the bushes he thought it was a mouse, and put up his back again and cried, “Ft! ft! ft! Frrrrrrr!” Then they were more frightened than ever. And the boar went into a bush still farther off, and the wolf went behind an oak, and the bear got down from the tree, and climbed up into a bigger one, and the hare ran right away.
But the cat remained in the midst of all the good things and ate away at the bacon, and the little fox gobbled up the honey, and they ate and ate till they couldn’t eat any more, and then they both went home licking their paws.