Thursday, 16 January 2020

Do foxes get a bad press? Reputation versus reality

Whether we live in the city or countryside, most of us have been lucky enough to glimpse that glorious flash of orange fur as a fox passes by. We may also have heard their distinctive night-time calls and barks as they go about their nocturnal business.

Yet many regard these misunderstood creatures as vermin; unwanted pests who make a mess rummaging in rubbish, and pose a threat to domestic pets and other wildlife.

But is this actually true?

Sensationalistic media coverage has not helped the reputation of the UK’s fox population, with the animal being blamed for everything from occasionally entering homes in search of food to savaging cats, until new evidence suggested that urban foxes were actually scavenging unfortunate felines who were victims of road traffic accidents.

                                         i paper 19/11/19 

There is no doubt that foxes are a well-adapted member of the UK’s wildlife population, living alongside humans in both rural and urban habitats. You are as likely to see one wandering a city street as crossing a field. DEFRA (Department of the Environment, Fisheries and Rural Affairs) estimates that there are 430,000 British foxes. To put this figure into perspective, domestic cats outnumber them by 19 to one! Foxes and cats are not natural enemies, and if they encounter one another, will usually show mutual respect by ignoring each other. After all, a healthy adult cat can be a formidable fighter, with sharp teeth and claws: not something your average fox wants to tangle with!

                                         Photo i paper Getty Images Matt Cardy

Research findings demonstrate our ambiguous attitude towards foxes. Wildlifeonline commissioned an opinion poll, asking a representative cross-section of the UK population how they viewed foxes. 75% of respondents either liked having foxes in their neighbourhood, had no strong opinion about them, or thought there were none in their area. The remaining 25% disapproved of foxes, but this was far higher in London than in rural areas: 33% compared to 19%. Women in the Home Counties scored highest for liking foxes.

Whatever our feelings towards foxes, we should admire their success at adapting to their changing environment. We often champion the cause of those species that are rare, while taking for granted those who thrive, like the fox. We have built upon and inhabited land that was once their domain. They continue to live alongside us, with the risks (and in some cases, advantages) it brings to them. Wildlife that endures is to be admired, when so many species are threatened to the point of extinction.

                                         © i paper 19/11/19

Thanks to i paper feature 19 November 2019.

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