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At Home in Urban Environments: The Fox

Updated: Feb 2

Sasha Hill learns more about the reflective beady eyes watching her when she walks around the city centre at night.


A common story that we all know about a fox who has lived near civilization is “Fantastic Mr. Fox'' by Roald Dahl and was recently featured on Netflix which was directed by Wes Anderson. Even though Mr Fox suffered from losing his house, tail and nearly his family and friends, they all managed to settle into their new homes after discovering a new route to get their food source: the supermarket that the farmers sold their goods to.

Red foxes, also known as Vulpes vulpes, are easily identifiable with their red fur and bushy tails. They are social animals and live in family groups. When most animals are hibernating in the winter, it is the foxes mating season. In a litter, there are 4-5 cubs where both parents raise them.


Image caption: Martin Mecnarowski on Wikimedia Commons.


Foxes first moved into our cities in the 1930s. With dense housing, large open spaces, gardens, and food from household waste, cities and towns became an ideal habitat for them. Foxes are rather shy creatures and will not attack people unless they feel the need to defend themselves. To spot a fox at night, simply look for a bushy tail or beady eyes from a bush that's reflected from the light post or cars. They have been living in our cities for nearly a century, hiding in the shadows, bridges, burrows etc. As the foxes have adapted to their surroundings, they are becoming bolder by wandering around the streets and are now accepted as “a part of the city”.


Foxes are scavengers, hence their most common source of food are rats and pigeons which is useful as it helps to control pest populations. They also clean our roads by running a litter clean up service by consuming discarded food.


Fox eating a discarded roast chicken in Kingston upon Thames. Image credit: Drew de Fawkes on Wikimedia Commons.


Some may consider focus vermin, but they have never legally been classed as vermin. Sadly foxes have limited protection by law; however, they are protected from cruelty and unlawful killings under the Wild Mammal Protection Act.


A number of people also think that foxes carry diseases, making them uneasy about having foxes live in their cities. However, the last case of canine rabies in the UK was in 1902, therefore killing and controlling the population is not worth it as they bring no infections that can affect the human population.

 

Kind unknowing people may occasionally feed them food however there is evidence that this causes a physical change when comparing them to their rural cousins. Some foxes have now developed “shorter snouts, smaller brains and reduced sexual dimorphism. Living in the city centre means that people will hear their screams at night when fighting over territory or during the mating season, which can be quite terrifying in the middle of the night. Also the busy nature of movement in the city results in 60% of urban foxes being killed in traffic accidents.


A fox family living at Troon Marina. Image caption: Bob Dawson on Wikimedia Commons.


Foxes are rather cute animals, but it is important to keep human interference (feeding etc.) to a minimum in order for them to be independent. If not, it could cause further complications between humans and foxes. Foxes are wild creatures at the end of the day so we must let them thrive on their own.

 

About the author: Sasha is an Environment and Economics student with a love for the outdoors, movies, and spending time with friends and family.

 

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