Red Fox Interaction with Humans - Introduction

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Eric Ashby's foxes "Jacky", "Sheba" and Vicky" entertaining one of many visitors to their enclosure in the New Forest. - Credit: Eric Ashby

There can be few animals that inspire the range of emotions that the fox can – from adoration to vehement hatred. A good example of the spread of feeling was apparent from the readers’ letters published in the July 2006 issue of BBC Wildlife Magazine. The spectrum of opinion was broad; from a gentleman in Buckinghamshire whose partner maintained a hatred for foxes after one entered their house and killed a pet gerbil in their daughter’s room as she slept, leaving droppings on the landing, to the story of a lady from Hampshire who found emotional comfort in a visiting fox during a very bad period in her life. Indeed, I have always found it interesting that people broadly fall into a “love” or “hate” camp and very few in the middle.

In my experience, people dislike foxes for one of two reasons: they have suffered some personal trauma from one (losing a pet, having their garden dug up, a bin raided, etc.); or they dislike foxes by proxy. Upon questioning people as to the reason behind their dislike of foxes, the response is often something along the lines of “well they kill for fun, don’t they?”, or “they’re mangy bin-raiding vermin”. Curiously, it I have spoken to many people who hold these views but have never caught more than a passing glimpse of a fox, let alone been directly affected by one. I mention this only in relation to how our opinions of foxes—indeed, wildlife in general—can be so heavily influenced by what we’re brought up to believe, what we read in the press and hear on the grapevine.

Many people will live their life never seeing a fox; others will have fleeting glimpses or brief interactions; but most will still maintain an opinion of the species. For many species, whether a person chooses to like or dislike them is generally based around how much inconvenience said species causes – the less the trouble, the higher the probability the person will like (or at least tolerate) the animal in question. The Red fox, as we have seen throughout this site, is different – it is so deeply rooted in our history and culture that most people have an opinion of it. Unfortunately for the fox dogma can be difficult to quash, particularly when so much of the literature does not portray it in a favourable light. Indeed, our language even contains the verb vulpeculated, meaning “to be robbed by a fox”. I cannot think of another animal for which a word exists specifically to reference its misdemeanours against us.