Do foxes bury their dead?

Do foxes bury their dead?

Very recently a young fox died in my back garden, so I waited until midnight to remove it.  I was prepared with a garden fork to move it to a derelict piece of land nearby where it could rot away harmlessly, but I got a shock.  The body had disappeared.  I was sure that the fox had been unquestionably dead (no breathing, flies etc) and no human would have disturbed the body.  So what happened?  We know that humans bury or cremate their dead very systematically and with much ceremony, but do foxes bury their dead family members?

There are many reports of foxes carrying away other dead foxes, especially young ones but there are quite a few possible explanations.  Maybe they are taken away and eaten - foxes can be cannibalistic - and there are reports of foxes feeding on the corpses of other foxes.  Or potentially the body could have been taken away for burial in order to create a store of food for difficult times.  It seems possible too that older foxes may have taken the body away for a more ritual burial, perhaps partly to prevent the spread of disease.   In Roman times, Pliny wrote that he believed the only animals to bury their dead, apart from humans, were ants.  Ants seem to be genetically programmed to remove all dead and diseased animals from their nests and recent research has shown that honeybees can exhibit hygienic behaviour; this refers to uncapping and removing dead and diseased larvae and pupae from the hive.  

Other animals, too, are sometimes reported to bury their dead.  Badgers, who do not make stores of food, have been reported to move their dead from the scene of the death.  Here views differ - some people say that the badgers move these corpses to bury them whilst others say they are just moving the bodies to a more secluded spot in order to feed on them.  Other reports, though rare, suggest that a group of badgers act together in burying a family member. - so-called badger funerals.

Foxes are well known for feeding on carrion including the bodies of other foxes.  Indeed it seems that parent foxes occasionally bury young foxes from other groups in order to train their own cubs to dig them up.  They will also raid the food caches of other foxes so they clearly recognise the value of the protein from the body of a fellow dead fox.  So the dilemma remains - was my fox taken by other foxes for food or for a ritual burial?

Comments are closed for this post.


We found the body of a fox cub in one of our small ponds yesterday evening; it was not smelly.

The previous day we noticed an adult fox out before sundown carrying something; so it appears the fox cub was placed in the pond by a parent.

Not sure why; it has been hot and decomposition would be much slower in the cooler water with less access to flies?

James Rivera

25 June, 2023

Would a badger perhaps taken it for food?


30 September, 2022

Thats interesting thought, I’d guess they’d eat them but never considered it before.


22 September, 2022