MAY 11, 2017 4:42 PM PDT

Foxes run rampant in England

Encroachment from human development and urbanization has been displacing animals for decades. Bears and coyotes often face human-wildlife conflicts throughout North America where their habitat has been diminished and they enter residential or ranch areas to prey on livestock or the common trash barrel. Elephants in parts of Eastern Africa face the similar dilemma where their migratory channels have been diminished and threaten farmers’ crops. But in England the principle animal is the red fox, Vulpes vulpes. In the last years, fox population numbers have increased in the north and remain stable in the south of England. Although urban sightings foxes have reportedly dropped by 43% since the 1990s, following Daily Mail UK, estimates state nearly 150,000 in England. That’s one fox for every 300 urban residents, writes The Guardian.

Photo: My Garden Journal

A recent study from Brighton and Reading universities led by mammalian biologist, Dawn Scott, and behavioral zoologist, Phil Baker, aimed to confirm a clearer census of fox populations by tagging foxes with transmitters to track their interactions and territories. They also instructed residents from eight different cities to report fox sightings during July and August from 2013 to 2015. The results of the study found that the city of Bournemouth currently has the highest concentration of urban foxes in the UK, with 23 individuals per square kilometer. In London that number was only slightly lower, at 18 individuals per square km; Bristol at 16 and Newcastle at 10.

Nevertheless, it is contested whether fox populations are actually increasing. Baseline studies may have not reported accurate numbers and so judging the species population growth is a challenge. Speaking from The Fox Project, a fox rescue service and wildlife hospital, Trevor Williams says: “I just don’t see that the population has increased at all in terms of enquiries, or in terms of casualties. We get around 700 to 750 coming in to our hospital and we raise about 220 and 250 cubs each year, and that hasn’t changed in many years either.”

Yet while he is firm that the “urban fox” phenomenon has gathered momentum because of human encroachment. “I think what’s happening is that we’re taking over more rural areas and therefore the foxes that live there become urban foxes…” he says. The concept can be looked at from several perspectives; a) that the foxes have nowhere else to go or b) living in urban areas provides them with the resources they need to thrive. Whatever the cause, urban foxes have gathered fame throughout the country. Some residents welcome them, while others do not. 

Scott points toward the abundance of suburban greenery as a reason for why there are so many foxed in Bournemouth. “Housing types and the suburban structure in Bournemouth might be slightly more suitable than the areas in London we surveyed to support higher fox numbers,” she stated.

Sources: The Guardian, Daily Mail UK, LA Times

About the Author
  • Kathryn is a curious world-traveller interested in the intersection between nature, culture, history, and people. She has worked for environmental education non-profits and is a Spanish/English interpreter.
You May Also Like
AUG 04, 2020
Earth & The Environment
Indigenous and local knowledge is crucial to biodiversity monitoring
AUG 04, 2020
Indigenous and local knowledge is crucial to biodiversity monitoring
A study published recently in the Journal of Applied Ecology harps on the necessity of incorporating Indigenous and loca ...
SEP 04, 2020
Microbiology
Researchers Discover a Way to Use Microbes to Help Make Plastic
SEP 04, 2020
Researchers Discover a Way to Use Microbes to Help Make Plastic
Researchers have discovered that some bacteria can make ethylene in a way we never knew about; microbes that metabolize ...
SEP 08, 2020
Earth & The Environment
Huge international supply chains account for 20% of global emissions
SEP 08, 2020
Huge international supply chains account for 20% of global emissions
This may come as a surprise to exactly no one, but multinational companies are the culprits of the highest levels of car ...
SEP 24, 2020
Plants & Animals
High Arctic Polar Bears are Temporarily Benefitting from Climate Change
SEP 24, 2020
High Arctic Polar Bears are Temporarily Benefitting from Climate Change
For the past few decades, polar bears have been harbingers of climate change. However, not every polar bear subpopu ...
OCT 14, 2020
Earth & The Environment
That's not really how atolls form...
OCT 14, 2020
That's not really how atolls form...
A study published this month in the Annual Review of Marine Science challenges the accuracy of Darwin’s theor ...
NOV 04, 2020
Plants & Animals
Scientists Rediscover "Lost" Chameleon Species in Madagascar
NOV 04, 2020
Scientists Rediscover "Lost" Chameleon Species in Madagascar
Voeltzkow’s chameleon was recently rediscovered after disappearing for more than 100 years. According to an articl ...
Loading Comments...