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What to do with orphaned fox cubs?

Updated: Mar 18, 2023

It has been a very eventful start to our orphan season. In the first week of March the animal care team admitted 8 fox cubs from local vets, all in one day. Six of the fox cubs came together after a member of the public found them in mud and rain - we suspect something happened to Mum, which explains why they came out of their den. The hospital also took in a slightly older male fox cub who was found extremely weak and cold on arrival. These cubs will stay in an incubator together on our hospital ward until stable enough to move onto the next phase of their recovery. These cubs will be the first of many in the coming days and weeks.

Knowing what to do is crucial.

Finding an orphaned fox cub can be a distressing experience for many people, and it is important to know the correct steps to take in order to ensure the cub's survival and wellbeing. In this blog post, we will discuss the important first steps to take when potentially finding an orphaned fox cub, as well the expert care and rehabilitate required to help these fox cubs survive.

In the spring, it is common to see young cubs developing their survival skills above ground during the day, with their parents usually nearby, watching. Female foxes (vixens) will move their litter one by one if they feel their den has been disturbed and so you may come across cubs on their own. The first and most important step to take when finding an fox cub alone is to first assess the situation before intervening, the cub might not have been abandoned.

Baby foxes are often brought to wildlife hospitals by well-meaning people who want to help, but this isn't always what's best for them. Reuniting them with their mother is the best chance of survival in the wild. Unless the cub is in immediate danger (road side or clearly sick or injured) always call us (01243 641672) or your local rehabilitation hospital for advice before touching the cub. You may be asked for information about the cub's age, condition, and location to determine the best course of action. Do not confine the cub unless you are told to so, as it might be possible for an expert to reunite with mum.

Always follow advice of trained professionals.

It is crucial not to attempt to care for the cub yourself or to give food or water, as this can do more harm than good. Young fox cubs have very specific dietary and nutritional requirements, and feeding them the wrong foods can lead to serious health problems and even death. Additionally, unless properly trained, handling the cub excessively can cause stress and trauma, which can be detrimental to their long-term wellbeing.

If a cub must be transported into the care of a wildlife hospital or rehabilitation centre, the trained animal care staff will assess the condition and provide the necessary care and treatment to stabilise the cub. This may include warmth, medical attention and initial hand feeding. One important aspect of caring for fox cubs is to prevent imprinting. If a fox cub grows up to associate food with humans or any human activity they could learn to forage and nest around human populations, making them a potential nuisance which can then lead to persecution by some members of the public. Animal care staff take extra care during the frequent handling, feeding, and interactions to prevent imprinting.

Feeding is a critical part of caring for fox cubs. Their diet needs to be carefully monitored and tailored to their specific nutritional requirements. They may require a combination of formula, solid foods, and live prey, depending on the cub's age and condition.

As the cub grows and becomes stronger, they will undergo rehabilitation training to prepare for release back into the wild. This may include socialisation with other foxes, to practice playing, hunting and foraging skills, as well as exposure to natural environments. Our onsite large mammal enclosures are specifically designed with these key enrichment skills in mind. The ultimate goal of the rehabilitation process is to give the cub the best chance of surviving and thriving in its natural habitat once released.

By Asha Park

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