IT WAS a bit of a shock, to be honest. I had just revisited one of my local fox dens in Clackmannanshire, and there was a scene of devastation all around, with tumbled pine trees that had been felled by ferocious winter storms.

After a bit of searching among these fallen leviathans, I found the entrance hole to the fox den, although it was partially filled with soil and definitely not active.

Perhaps, the tunnel further inside had collapsed after tree roots had been violently pulled from the soil by the power of the wind.

I searched around a bit more and soon found a den that had all the signs of being occupied by a vixen, and which hopefully had new-born cubs below.

I placed a remote sensor-operated trail camera near the den and managed to capture some of the photographs shown here.

The cubs are still too young to emerge, but if this is the vixen's denning site, then they should appear in the next two or three weeks.

Badgers are very faithful to their setts, which can't be said of foxes and their dens.

If I know a den is occupied by a vixen and cubs, then I am extremely cautious and will never approach too close, for the mother is skittish and if she senses the den location has been compromised, will quickly abandon it and move her cubs elsewhere.

David Stephen, the distinguished 20th century naturalist, wrote: "Badgers don't desert established setts readily. The fox will do so quickly, on the spur of the moment, if she finds human or dog scent near the den, if she's threatened, or if she simply takes the notion."

A few years ago, one of my trail cameras caught a vixen in the process of moving her cubs from her Wee County den, after it had attracted the attention of wandering dogs from a nearby woodland path.

At the dead of night, she descended into the den tunnel to gently grab a dark-furred tiny cub in her mouth, before carrying it away to a new location. She did this five times, until all the cubs had been safely moved.

The vixen is an incredibly protective mother and when approaching her den with food in her mouth, she will carefully sniff the air to ensure there is no danger.

She is the epitome of mother nature, using her intelligence and guile to ensure her precious young have every chance of surviving into adulthood.