Farmer saves fox cubs by Caesarean near Haywards Heath

image copyrightWild by nature photography
image captionBiscuit, the female, at three weeks enjoying the sun on her face

A farmer saved four fox cubs by performing an emergency Caesarean on their dead mother at the side of the road.

Chris Rolfe had been checking on his pregnant ewes when he saw a car hit a fox on his way home towards Haywards Heath, West Sussex.

He went to check on the vixen, who was killed instantly, but then noticed the movement of cubs inside her belly.

He quickly performed the procedure, and took the pups to his mother Jean.

image copyrightWild by nature photography
image captionChris Rolfe and his mother Jean hand-reared the cubs

Mrs Rolfe said: "Chris wasn't expecting them to survive but he wanted to try. It's miraculous they did."

The 51-year-old has looked after other waifs and strays in the past including foxes, rabbits and hedgehogs.

She and her son immediately cleaned, dried and made the cubs warm, then started to feed them puppy milk every 20 minutes.

image copyrightWild by nature photography
image captionGinger was the runt of the litter and much smaller than his siblings
image copyrightWild by nature photography
image captionGinger is now thriving and will be released with the others

Mrs Rolfe said it was "a very long night", and it was not until they were five weeks old that they would go more than three hours without a feed, day or night.

The only girl of the group was called Biscuit. One boy was named Ginger, and the other two Little-Tip and Big-Tip due to markings on their tails.

Once they are old enough, they will be released into the wild.

image copyrightWild by nature photoraphy
image captionBig Tip, Little Tip, Ginger and Biscuit are now seven weeks old

Mrs Rolfe said: "On a purely selfish note it's going to be incredibly difficult to let them go.

"But they are wild animals and the aim has always been to get them back out and hope they can use this second chance to live long and happy lives where they belong.

"It's so exciting to have got them to this point, they're really quite amazing."

image copyrightWild by nature photography
image captionGinger feeding up in the early days

At the end of May, when they reach 10 weeks old, they will be given to The Fox Project, a charity which looks after about 900 injured or abandoned foxes every year.

Founder Trevor Williams said they will be housed in a large semi-wild pen to help them adjust to outdoor life, before being released.

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