I regularly see foxes near my home: in the street, in the nearby park and in my garden. It’s not a main road, so fortunately, there are not too many fox fatalities because of motorists, I’ve only ever seen one, but it’s fascinating to watch them. They tend to shy away from humans; they always cross the road or run and hide when I get close to them. And yet, one day, one was bold enough to come into my home.
I see so many foxes near to my home and they are regularly in my back garden and in the road or the nearby park. They are clearly very successful omnivores.
I regularly see foxes near my home in Greater London, and one evening this week I saw a mum and her cub running down the road together, as though they were playing a game. I stopped to try to photograph them, but as soon as mum saw me, she got a bit agitated, so I carried on walking. I try not to disturb the little creatures.
I’ve noticed that whenever I walk along the road and there is a fox coming or nearby, they will always run and hide away. In fact, only this morning, I – literally – caught the tail end of one running away as I opened the back door. I assume that they do this with all humans and that I am not singled out for special treatment! On another occasion, I tried to get a photograph of one sunning himself on the top of a neighbour’s shed, but he put his paw up and said,
“No paparazzi,” and ran off. (Ok, he just ran away when he saw me with the camera.)
They are quite bold though, when they don’t see humans. When my younger cats were still kittens, during the summer months a few years ago, a fox came into my house through the open conservatory door and made her way into the kitchen because there was cat food there. I believe this was the same fox that had made her earth in my garden and gave birth in that earth, so it would make sense that she was trying to get food without going too far. As soon as she heard me coming, she crept out of the house. I suspect she took a chance because of her cubs; she didn’t want to leave them for too long and could smell the food.
I was quite disturbed when she came in (although probably not as much as my two little kittens, they were very upset) but I’ve come to realise that urban foxes do more good than harm. Aside from food they are fed from humans, they eat rats, and as there are a great many of them in London, and they spread disease and do lots of damage, anything that eats them is ok with me.
It is true that before we had wheelie bins, they did rip the rubbish sacks open for the meat bones, but I can honestly say that they have never made any attempt to get into my wheelie bin. I think that mostly, when we see them eating from bins, the wind has toppled it over and the foxes are just taking advantage of what’s available.
There are estimated to be more than 33,000 foxes living in UK towns and cities, about 10,000 in London alone. They do not, in my experience, attack cats or other small pets. When the fox came into my house, although my kittens were scared and ran to me, the fox wasn’t interested in them, just their food. In fact, I’ve seen my cats and foxes sitting or lying next to each other in the sun, and the only notice they take of each other is if the fox happens to have the better position and my girls get jealous. I used to see this behaviour with my male cat too, so it’s not just because my cats are female. I suspect that the usual terms of engagement apply about fighting apply – most animals do not fight unless necessary because it is inefficient in energy terms, as in they have to search for food, shelter or a mate, so why waste that useful energy fighting for no good reason?
People have expressed concern over the occasions reported in the press when foxes have attacked small children. The RSPCA says that these incidents are rare and foxes only attack out of fear, which certainly bears out my experiences. As well as eating rats, foxes will insects, earthworms, voles and small birds. It’s natural in the whole food web for there to be predators and prey species.
The foxes in the poster above are clearly young - their snouts are shorter than a fully grown fox, and their coats are only just beginning to change colour.
The gestation period of a fox is about 52 days; they mate from December to February and typically give birth to four or five cubs in March or April. It usually takes about six weeks for them to wean. The cubs are brown at birth and their coat changes to the characteristic red colour when they leave the earth.
In the wild, foxes live from one to three years, in captivity; they can live up to 10 years.
Foxes bury excess food, saving it for later.
As with most non-domestic animals, they do not tend to sleep for long periods in any one go.
Some of the body language is similar to that of cats, as in flicking and rotating their ears, and standing on their hind legs. When the young play-fight, they often stand atop of each other and use open mouthed gestures.