Foxes

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Globally there are 19 species of fox, most of which sit within the Vulpini tribe. Britain is home to only one: the red fox (Vulpes vulpes).


Species


Questions

Are fox populations increasing in Britain?

Urban fox populations appear to have risen in the last decade, while rural numbers have declined.

Are foxes and rabbits native to Britain?

As a species, foxes are native, but introductions have taken place. Rabbits are a non-native species.

Are foxes colour-blind?

Foxes probably see fewer colours than we do, probably more pastel shades, but retinographic and behavioural studies suggest they can see colour.

Are foxes getting bolder and, if so, why?

After decades living side by side with people, foxes have come to recognise that we generally pose no threat and there's no point wasting valuable energy running away.

Are North American and European Red foxes different species?

Morphological evidence groups American and European foxes together in the same species, but more recent genetic data support mountain foxes as a distinct species.

Are there exceptions to the “foxes scatter cache rule” and, if so, what are the benefits of scatter caching?

Foxes do sometimes "larder cache", but scatter caching reduces the risk of losing all the food if a cache is discovered.

Are urban foxes getting bigger?

The potential is there, but there's no empirical evidence that foxes have increased in average body size in the last decade or so.

Are urban foxes unique to Britain?

Foxes are found in towns and cities throughout Europe, being less common in North American urban areas.

Do foxes & badgers bury their dead?

This behaviour has been observed in both species. In foxes it's probably caching food. In badgers the reason is unknown, although cleanliness of the sett seems likely.

Do foxes kill for fun?

No predator hates hunting, but that doesn't mean foxes kill “out of spite” or “for the sake of it".

Does surplus killing represent a waste of energy for foxes?

Surplus killing is making the most of an opportunity and a energetic waste only if the spoils cannot be recovered.

I have taken in an injured fox cub and would like to keep it as a pet – is this illegal?

Broadly speaking, wild-caught foxes do not make good pets and it is not advisable to try hand rearing them.

Is it likely that a fox will attack me, my child, my cat or my dog?

Attacks do happen, with cats being potentially most at risk, but they appear to be very rare.

Is it okay for me to feed wildlife?

Generally speaking, feeding appropriate food in appropriate quantities is fine. There can, however, be some unforeseen consequences to supplementary feeding.

Is the British Red fox a different subspecies to that found elsewhere in Europe & Asia? How many “breeds” are there in the UK?

Most biologists do not split British foxes from those elsewhere in Eurasia, although genetic data suggest there may be some validity in doing so.

Should we be culling urban foxes?

Culling foxes is a long-term undertaking if it is to impact populations. It is particularly difficult, expensive and broadly unpopular in urban areas.

Should we reintroduce large predators (such as wolves, lynx & bears) to control fox numbers?

Large carnivores are unlikely to impact urban fox numbers and seem equally unlikely to be tolerated by a public who struggle to live with mesocarnivores such as foxes.

What are Samson foxes?

The Samson condition is a genetic mutation that prevents the growth of guard hairs and produces curled underfur, resulting in a woolly appearance.

What diseases and parasites do Red foxes carry?

Foxes are hosts for various internal and external parasites, some of which are important for human health. There is, however, no evidence to suggest that they are a significant vector for zoonotic disease in Britain.

What do you know about losing a pet?

The story of when "Flick" the duck met Reynard.

When and how did foxes come to live in our towns and cities?

Foxes have been our city-dwelling neighbours since at least the 1930s.

Why do foxes kill their own young and the young of other foxes?

No single theory fits all observed cases of infanticide, but in many cases it appear to be either predation (i.e. for food) or removal of competition.

Why does my dog seem to have a penchant for rolling in fox poo?

This may be an evolutionary hangover of a way of sharing a novel smell with the pack or disguising your own scent.

Why help your siblings when you could be starting your own family?

Siblings are genetically related and helping to ensure a brother or sister survives the first perilous months increases the chances some of your genes will make it into future generations.

Why shouldn’t I feed foxes (and dogs in general) chocolate?

Dogs cannot easily digest a component in the chocolate, called theobromine, and this can cause kidney problems.


Bibliography

A Fox’s Tale: The secret life of the fox - by Robin Page
Hodder and Stoughton -- 1986 -- ISBN: 978-0340382561

A New Forest Fox Family - by Thelma Clarke
Barny Books -- 2000 -- ISBN: 978-0948204463

British Wildlife: Foxes - by Sally Morgan
Franklin Watts -- 2005 -- ISBN: 978-0749679101

British Wildlife: Foxes - by Sally Morgan
Franklin Watts -- 2005 -- ISBN: 978-0749679101

Country Foxes - by Hugh Kolb
Whittet Books -- 1996 -- ISBN: 978-1873580295

Dogs: Their fossil relatives and evolutionary history - by Xiaoming Wang and Richard Tedford
Columbia University Press -- 2008 -- ISBN: 978-0231135290

Fox - by Martin Wallen
Reaktion Books -- 2006 -- ISBN: 978-1861892973

Fox: A biography of Britain’s natural neighbour - by Adele Brand
Independently published -- 2017 -- ISBN: 978-1549901713

Foxes (Mammal Society Series) - by Steve Harris
Anthony Nelson Ltd. -- 1984 -- ISBN: 978-0904614121

Foxes Unearthed: A Story of Love and Loathing in Modern Britain - by Lucy Jones
Elliott & Thompson -- 2016 -- ISBN: 978-1783961498

Foxwatching: In the shadow of the fox - by Martin Hemmington
Whittet Books -- 1997 -- ISBN: 978-1873580318

Free Spirit: A brush with a fox - by Michael Chambers
Methuen London -- 1990 -- ISBN: 978-0413629807

How to Spot a Fox - by J. David Henry
Chapters Publishing Ltd. -- 1993 -- ISBN: 978-1881527176

Just About Me - by Mike Towler
Vulpine Publishing -- 2006 -- ISBN: N/A

My Friends the Foxes - by Mike Towler
Vulpine Publishing -- 2015 -- ISBN: N/A

My Life With Foxes - by Eric Ashby
Robert Hale Books -- 2000 -- ISBN: 978-0709065616

Red Fox: The Catlike Canine - by J. David Henry
Smithsonian Institution Press -- 1996 -- ISBN: 978-1560986355

Running with the Fox - by David MacDonald
UnwinHyman -- 1987 -- ISBN: 978-0816018864

The Complete Fox - by Les Stocker
Chatto and Windus, Ltd. -- 1994 -- ISBN: 978-0701137762

The Nature of Foxes: Hunters of the shadows - by Rebecca Gambo
Greystone Books -- 1995 -- ISBN: 978-1550541847

Town Fox, Country Fox - by Brian Vezey-Fitzgerald
The Country Book Club -- 1968 -- ISBN: 978-0552092111

Unearthing the Urban Fox - by Trevor Williams and Andrew Wilson
The Fox Project -- 2011 -- ISBN: 978-0956961402

Urban Foxes - by Stephen Harris & Phil Baker
Whittet Books -- 2001 -- ISBN: 978-1873580516

Wild Fox: A complete study of the Red fox - by Roger Burrows
David and Charles Publishers -- 1968 -- ISBN: 978-0330238007
Note: Burrows provides some interesting observations in this book, but frequently arrives at spurious conclusions. As such, this book should be interpreted with caution.


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