The moonlight pooled on the warm concrete, the last commuters rushed through the dark street, heads down, feet thumping the pavement in their haste. A delicate breeze braided through the trees, blowing away the last vestiges of the hot day. Only then, when the streets were hollow in their emptiness and the relentless growl of vehicles
had diminished to a distant whine, did she dare vacate her hiding spot.
Her muzzle emerged first, prodding the sky for scent spirals. Then, gradually, her head followed. I watched as her ears needled upwards, listening intently, hearing an auditory soup where humans only hear silence. She emerged then, her muscles rippling, her gait decisive and stealthy for she knew exactly where she was going. She’d been there many times before. When she reached her destination, her muzzle buried itself in the delectable mountain of rotting rubbish. The ultimate feast: The Rubbish Bin.
It’s was with an admirable ease that she managed to diffuse the neatly packed contents across the whole road. The strewn rubbish was left flapping gently in the breeze as she haughtily strode away, stopping to lick her paw here and sniff the air there. However, what she didn't realise is that in the morning dozens of fuming humans will watch in despair as the rubbish is blown onto their porches.
The words ‘vermin’ and ‘pest’ will hold particular importance in their vocabulary as they express their outrage at this ‘injustice’.
Many people have taken action against these vulpine visitors. From culls to pest control, the efforts to ‘sanitise’ our cities of foxes have been ongoing and persistent. Yet do we really want to sterilise our cities of nature to such an extent that we’re only left with domesticated pets to roam the streets? Some may take pleasure in the sight of a wide-eyed Robin hopping over their bird table, head cocked in naivete. They delight in the deep-red colour of the Robin’s breast and their twittering calls. So why, then, can we not see the beauty in the Fox’s russet coat that appears a rich gold when the Summer sun filters through it? We are touched when a canine mother exhibits her maternal instinct for her puppies, yet when a vixen imperils herself in order to find food for her hungry cubs, we are disgusted.
It’s time that we alter our approach to urban foxes. They are now an integral aspect of the city environment and it’s vital that rather than continuing our one-sided conflict with them, we begin to embrace their presence and even welcome them.
People worry that the fox population is becoming unbridled and too large to be contained in the city. However, the Fox population is self regulating and limited by the availability of territory and food and, contrary to popular belief, foxes are solitary creatures, not pack animals. Therefore by the time that late Autumn arrives, a fox family has usually dispersed.
Moreover, foxes are small members of the canine family and can easily be overpowered by a cat, dog or humans. Due to this, they hold virtually no risk and our fear of them is not only irrational, but also slightly humiliating considering
the size and strength advantage that we possess over them.
And yes, as long as there are foxes, they will need to eat. But there is no law that states it has to be out of your rubbish bin. There are several steps you can take to ensure that your rubbish is protected from our frugal friends. An example of this is by using enclosed wheelie bins or humane repellents such as “Get Off My Garden”.
Foxes aren’t, and never have been classified as vermin by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA). DEFRA is the only organisation which is entitled to impose this label onto a wild animal and therefore any categorisation of foxes as ‘vermin’ is factually and wholly incorrect.
Conclusively, foxes are economical opportunists who have embraced our urbanisation with open paws. Now it’s time that we embrace them. So next time you see a burnished shadow streaking through the city, elegantly launching over fences and patrolling the streets, take a second to admire the beauty of the cardinal coat and graceful gait, and feel proud that our cities can foster such species diversity.
(I originally wrote this blog post for Pocket Pals, of which I am a youth ambassador).