Fox watching involves either discovery or confusion. Having a background in canine behavior (or experience with more than one canine) really allows the watcher to have a better idea of just what is going on. As the fox kits grow, their interactions become more adult-like. They don’t tend to greet one another……after all, they are all living together and know each other well. But there does seem to be a pecking order which establishes quite young, according to the fox research I have read (the best is a book entitled: Red Fox, The Catlike Canine by J. David Henry, ISBN 1-56098-635-2, Smithsonian Press). He said, “…..at about 25 days of age, the kits begin to fight viciously; they clash with each other in short, serious….contests….[to]….establish a strict dominance hierarchy during the following ten days. The alpha (or dominant) member of the litter establishes itself, and the hierarchical process continues all the way down to the omega animal. Evidence suggests that these dominance relationships among the cubs are stable and have a great bearing on their survival….The largest member of the litter, whether male or female, usually becomes the alpha pup. By early May the fox kits …..begin to come above ground for longer periods of time. At this point the hierarchy is solidly established, and the aggressiveness of the cubs actually diminishes. Gradually they become more social, playful, and puppylike.”
I’m glad I’m watching the less aggressive behavior! Other interactions are interesting. Pup to adult greeting is often like pups get food as younger kits. They approach crouched, ears back, tail out, in a submissive behavior. Open mouths seem to go with the greeting. Between adults it is the same. Below, Papa, who has been babysitting, is replaced by Sweetie, who greets Papa, and they then begin to “mouth” in friendship, or, at least toleration. After-all, Sweetie is a pup from last year’s litter with Papa again as sire.