Wednesday canid: Foxes of London, Ahooo!

May 25, 2011 • 11:21 am

We don’t usually feature canids on this website, but this is an exception, for reader Dominic has spotted a mother fox and three kits in central London:

 Usually my ‘wildlife’ in central London is confined to herring gulls, lesser black backed gulls, cormorants on the canal at Kings Cross, and some other small birds. However, today I can trump your bonking squirrels (which we have as well!).  Just as I was about to leave work at about 4.30 p.m. I spotted a family of three fox cubs and their mother in the enclosed old garden at the back of the library right in the middle of the Royal National Throat Nose and Ear Hospital, only a few hundred yards from Kings Cross! Luckily I had my camera with me (I have learnt from Amy saying that she missed a great photo opportunity recently), and I attach one of the pictures. I managed to get some video on the camera as well. There was a pair of magpies there as well, and one cub was playing with them. The magpies were quite happy with the foxes who made no serious attempt to catch them. I thought you might enjoy the picture!’

Click to enlarge:

And their fur was perfect.

49 thoughts on “Wednesday canid: Foxes of London, Ahooo!

  1. Dominic – you should contact the BBC Springwatch website: it starts next Monday and they may like this story.

    1. Will do – but I worry that after the hysteria over fox attacks on those two children the hospital may get pest controllers in. Last autumn in one week I found two dead foxes in one week on York Way just up from Kings Cross – I am guessing young ones that were unused to the traffic.

      1. Well, and as thrilling as it is to see urban wildlife, it can cause significant problems. Sigh. And often much polarizing “discussion” when it comes to how to cope with said problems.

  2. From someplace I have the idea that density of foxes in urban areas of England is several times their density out in the countryside.

  3. I live in Cincinnati, in southwest Ohio. About 15 years ago, I was surprised late one night to see a pair of coyotes crossing a farmer’s field under a full moon outside Oxford, Ohio. About 10 years ago, on a fine winter day after a snowstorm, I saw a coyote hunting rodents under the snow just off I-465 in the northern suburbs of Cincinnati. In recent years, coyotes have begun to rival white-tail deer as highway roadkill every spring and fall.

    I understand that a lot of the coyotes moving into the eastern U.S. are hybrids — either coyote-wolf hybrids or coyote-dog hybrids. I’ve also read that the native-but-locally-extinct red wolf may have been a coyote-wolf hybrid that triggered a speciation event.

  4. I probably wouldn’t be trumpeting the exact location I saw them in such an urban area. Most people would bring their camera, but it would only take one to bring some rat poison to ruin the fun.

    1. You could be right – but I think though that in a week or two they will wander off & of course in such a traffic filled area they young foxes have a very short life expectancy. They did have a dead rat.

  5. I saw a coyote run past our house one night a few years back. We’re in the City of Milwaukee. I was surprised at the time. We’ve also had Coopers Hawks nest in the tree in front. And, of course, the usual assortment of raccoons and possums. A friend of mine filmed a beaver swimming in the Milwaukee River last year. Urban wildlife is becoming quite interesting in Milwaukee.

  6. Can you take back the foxes we have? I walk around every night and there are always a couple of the buggers about. They’re introduced and like their childrens book playmates the rabbit and cat just out compete about everything mammalian except kangaroos and possums. Although rabbits are now sort of necessary as the eagles now prey upon them instead of the defunct wee marsupials.
    If you want photos I can send some of kangaroos and cockatoos by the boatload. Just are a daily occurrence grazing across the road and such a cliche of Australia that I don’t believe anybody would give a fat rat’s bum hole.

    1. I can see how a person might think all that wildlife is like a pest, after a while. But I see so little of it, it seems almost miraculous to me.

      1. I don’t think Kangaroos are pests. I love them. I know a lot of others do think them pests and because they are not endangered they can be killed if you get a permit or are a developer.

        I think that foxes, rabbits and cats are pests because they are destroying the native wildlife. I love cats by the way and make sure my felines are locked up each night so they don’t mess with the wildlife.

        1. The rabbits are infamous, of course, and feral cats are problematic many places, but this is the first I’ve heard of introduced foxes. What a shame. Were they brought in for a purpose, like the rabbits, or was some Englishman just nostalgic?

          1. We shouldn’t forget that rabbits were introduced to Britain from Spain by the Romans – and foxes were introduced in both the U S and Australia by the English for hunting (ironically now illegal in England).

          1. No, but the arboreal marsupials and burrowing marsupials are well hidden during the day. Birds not so much, but the only birds our cats manage to get near are introduced Mina birds and the only mammals are introduced mice and rats.

  7. The back garden can be a great place to see wildlife. I get badgers at night, a fox is a regular visitor and there is a resident albino squirrel.

  8. A great picture and beautiful animals.

    I have always thought foxes are kind of feline-like canines and cheetahs are kind of canine-like felines.

    1. OMG–was watching Animal Planet with the kids last night. Had to stay up because Cheetahs were on (Koshi loves teh Cheetahs)–and I sat there thinking the exact same thing! How…canine cheetahs are. Agree that foxes kind of walk the line between canine and feline:-))

  9. Foxes confuse me. They’re not dogs. They’re not cats. For some reason, my mind is totally binary about them.

    1. Foxes climb trees like cats and eat just about anything. They’re the jack-of-all-trades carnivore.

      1. eat just about anything

        That’s true, which is why they are jack of all trades omnivores, not carnivores.

        1. I guess, but I think you’ll find them classified as carnivores. I mean that they’re a species of dog and dogs are carnivores.

        2. Wikipedia:

          Canidae … is the biological family of carnivorous and omnivorous mammals that includes the wolves, foxes, jackals, coyotes, and the domestic dog

          So it’s not unreasonable to call them a jack-of-all-trades carnivore. Even if they’re omnivorous. 😉

          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Canidae

  10. *Swooning with jealousy*! Beautiful photo, Dom!! See–I knew that telling people about the shot I missed because of not having my camera might help somebody else :-)) Good thing you had your camera!! Where can we see the video you shot? Totally want to see them playing with magpies! This is so exciting… I’m just sitting here all ‘squeeee!’ Lucky! Thanks *so* much for sharing the story and photo here at WEIT!

    1. I should have a website like yours for this… It was a little shaky as it was an ordinary small camera and I will keep looking in case I get another chance one late afternoon, but I could e-mail anyone interested – I am the only Dominic on this page –
      http://www.ucl.ac.uk/ear/staff

      Thanks Prof Coyne for posting the picture. I love this website!

  11. The city of Haarlem has been covered in a kneehigh layer of herring gulls every spring for the past few years. There have been campaigns to have them all shot, but thankfully rational minds prevailed.

    Last spring when I was working at the bird hospital in Haarlem people would come in fawning over all the baby geese and ducks and sparrows and gulls, and assure us what a fine job we were doing, and then not ask, but demand we shoot those bloody nesting gulls off their roofs.

    It would all but escalate to fisticuffs when we tried to explain that perhaps the gulls are here because people leave their garbage in the streets and shooting them would only make room for new gulls.

    The arguments would usually end with me explaining that I prefer the endless squawking of the gull enclosure to the bloodthirsty rantings of sour gits who are too lazy to pick up a bloody shovel but think they have the answers to everything.

    I love seagulls.

    1. When I worked at St.Paul’s Cathedral there was one which got in & pincehed sweets from the shop in the crypt…

    1. Darling picture… but this:

      ‘I had to get a paper and hit him up the behind to get him off the settee. I had to shoo him out of the house where he stood trying to come back in again.’

      …. would not have been my reaction to finding a napping fox on my sofa (if I had a sofa).

  12. A sad memory from my childhood: we lived on a farm (although we weren’t the farmers). The farmer caught a fox somehow and decided to keep it as a sort of pet. It never became tame, probably because he just chained it to a kennel and threw it some food every now and then. It was an immensely sad thing to see. I couldn’t persuade him to let it go so I just went ahead and released it one night.

    He guessed it was me, of course, and wasn’t shy in administering a beating, but it was worth it.

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