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66   COMMISSION OF CONSERVATION

vigorous and better able to survive adverse climatic or other conditions than the females.

"Except for a few cases, mating, according to my obsena-Breeding   tion, is confined to the month of March and the first half of

April. The earliest birth of pups noted by me was May 17, the latest June 6. Altogether I have seen 22 litters of new-born foxes. The largest of these consisted of 11, the smallest of 5 members. Three litters contained 1 white each, three, 2 dead each, and six, 1 dead each. These discoveries were made shortly after the young were born and before some of them were dry. In all these cases the mother made no preparation, but gave birth in slight depressions on the surface of the ground. In every case the mother was much concerned by my presence, andlimmediately transferred her young to some subterranean spot in the neighbourhood. She removed the dead as well as the living. The male consort was not present at any of these births. I am inclined to think the mother always gives birth on the surface of the ground, and within a day or so transfers the young underground for protection and security.

"As a general thing the young are not observed until about the middle of June. They are then of pretty good size and play or feed about the mouths of their burrows, on food brought by their parents. When the young are thus playing or feeding, one and occasionally two old foxes are in the vicinity. These are supposed to be parents when two are present; but generally only one, presumably the mother, is about and the approach of a person causes the emission of a shrill note from her which sends the young scampering under the ground.

"The number of young seen at the mouths of their burrows varies between 1 and 4, according to my observation. Major Clack saw 12 at the mouth of one warien, but he was under the impression that more than one family was represented. During the summer of 1906, Mi. Chichester observed daily for many weeks a family of eleven, all of which were eventually brought up by the mother. I am inclined to consider this litter a very exceptional one. If it were not, we would have a great many more foxes at trapping time.

"The infant mortality, which is very great, takes place shortly after birth and is probably attributable to want of nourishment, cold, and inclement weather. As soon as the young can eat meat, they thr ive rapidly and under ordinary conditions reach maturity.

"On one occasion a native found a family of 12 young that had just been born. One he thought was dead and brought it to me, but after being in the house ten minutes the little thing showed signs of


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