Snuggled up in a bucket, this adorable litter of fox cubs were disturbed when a family was taking down an old garden shed.
Their mum sensed danger and fled without her little ones at a crucial time in their development.
But luckily, help was at hand.
“The family were surprised and saddened to have disturbed a litter of fox cubs underneath, who were only four or five weeks old,” says Sandra Reddy, hospital director of Fox Project.
“Luckily the householders were able to catch them up and get them safely contained inside a trug bucket.
“The warmer weather inspires folk out into their gardens to tidy up.”
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Sandra was on call at the wildlife charity that day, just over a week ago and took the cubs to the Fox Project’s intensive care unit to check them over, before taking them back to see if their mum would collect them.
“We usually try two or three times in case it doesn’t work the first night but we didn’t need to in this case,” she says.
“The cubs were put into a cardboard box with a hot water bottle. Mum came and, one at a time, grabbed them and took them into the next den along. Our rescuer went back at 10.30pm and found an empty box, it was such a relief.”
Sandra hopes people will become more aware of fox dens so they will try not to disturb them when they’re gardening.
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Foxes like to make their dens in sheltered sites, often among trees, under buildings or dense vegetation.
“The important thing is it gives the message to people,” she says. “If you take the old shed down the last thing you want to do is disturb the foxes.
“It becomes a shock and an upset for the people who are dismantling it as well as for the cubs and mum.”
It’s one of the busiest times of the year for the charity, based in Tunbridge Wells, Kent, as fox cubs are born towards the end of March.
They remain inside the den for the first six to eight weeks of their lives and are dependent on their mothers.
The Fox Project, whose patron is broadcaster and naturalist Chris Packham, currently has 66 cubs under its care, all of which have either been abandoned or orphaned.
“They’re a bundle of joy,” Sandra says. “They like to play, they like a game.
“We give them all teddies, especially when they’re on their own.
“When they first come in they have to be assessed and they get a teddy and a hot water bottle so they can cuddle up and feel the warmth.”
Supporters also knit the cubs their own little blankets to keep them warm and they need to be bottle fed.
Sandra adds: “At the moment they’re tiny and vulnerable, a lot of them are still being bottle fed so you get that close contact with them. They need the comfort of that when they’re this young.”
At the sanctuary, the babies are put into litters of five, as they would have been in the wild, and they stay with their adopted siblings throughout their time there.
When they’re big enough, the young foxes will be moved to a pen in the garden of one of the charity’s foster carers until they’re old enough to be released into the wild.
Working with foxes is a joy for Sandra and her team but they also see some heartbreaking acts of cruelty.
On a recent call out they found a vixen, who they named Ambrosia, with a self-locking snare around her middle.
The use of self-locking snares is illegal under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981.
Sandra says: “This snare is made of a cable tie, so somebody has made their own snare up, it’s a really horribly dangerous thing.
“They’re indiscriminate – cats, dogs, children, anyone can get caught in them. It’s really nasty.
“It’s been cutting into the skin under her armpits, she has open wounds there and under her stomach.”
The charity was also called out to rescue a fox which had been shot at with an air rifle.
The project, which began in 1991, even has a fox ambulance which is on call 12 hours a day, seven days a week.
“Yesterday was crazy, we had 10 rescues,” Sandra says. “We do 12-hour shifts for the ambulance drivers.
“Not only have we got fosterers but we’ve also got rescuers so we can send someone who is closest to the incident.
“We like to get to it within an hour, that’s our ambition which we usually maintain.”
The charity relies on public donations and is trying to raise funds to build a bigger wildlife hospital.
How you can help these fantastic beasts
Q I’ve found a cub in my garden, what should I do?
If it’s in no imminent danger and weather conditions are not severe monitor it for an hour at most to see if a vixen is simply moving her cubs (they do this one by one usually under the cover of darkness) and may be coming back for this one soon.
Do not touch the cub, as human scent may make the mum abandon it.
Cubs lose heat very quickly and may make distress calls, which can indicate immediate help is needed.
If you feel it is in trouble you can put it in a box and call the ambulance line. Keeping it warm with blankets and a wrapped hot water bottle helps.
Q There is a sick or injured fox outside, what should I do?
If it allows you within a few feet, our rescue team can attempt to catch it with a net, but if it can still run then they are nearly impossible to catch and a cage trap will be needed.
Occasionally folk are able to outsmart a fox and contain it in an outbuilding or dog kennel, ensuring a rescue.
But don’t touch the fox, as it may bite if its feels in danger.