Magic moments – upland foxes

We had been told about a fox earth in the Brecon Beacons at which cubs had been seen quite recently. The location was about a mile and a half from any road with the fox earth located at the top of a small stream valley.  Upland foxes are amongst the most persecuted animals on earth, and consequently the adults are wily in the extreme. If the cubs were small we probably would not have gone near this earth as the vixen would almost certainly have moved her cubs at the earliest safe opportunity. Filming an animal like this at a location like this is the main reason I wanted to be a wildlife cameraman. As a youngster growing up in the Monmouthshire countryside I used to watch fox earths from a distance for fun, and I still think it is fun!

Getting into a good filming position was tricky. This was a very exposed situation with a swirling wind. As the researcher had been there the previous evening we knew we could sit still within filming range as long as we were downwind. A wildlife camera person smells just as much as anyone else, probably more, so we walked a huge arc around the earth to ensure our scents never blew anywhere near it. Happy with our position we settled in and watched the entrances to the earth…and kept watching. It was one of those times when you watch with high optimism, a high optimism that slowly fades as the sun goes down.

But on this occasion we were not to be disappointed. One well grown cub emerged after an hour or so. It knew that there was something different sitting out on the moor, namely us, but it was unconcerned and started grooming itself. Just a few minutes later two more cubs emerged, one practically full size but still having that ‘puppy’ look about it. From time to time they all looked in our direction, but they put on a great show, chasing and playing in the way that many young mammals do.

As a wildlife cameraman it does not take long to become attached to a subject,  but the reality is that it is unlikely I will ever see those animals again. Their heady days of playing around and waiting for mum to return will soon be over and they will be out on their own. Good luck to them I say, and keep away from spotlights at night and guns. What a tremendous evening of wildlife filming.