Foxes of London

January 7, 2013 • 5:12 am

. . . and his fur is perfect.

Fox in garden in November 2012

I was sent this photo and description by Sarah L., who has been following what seems to have turned into Fox Week:

To add to your new collection of fox pictures, I attach a photo I took in November of a red fox curled up in my garden in London. Foxes are a common sight in the city, trotting along at dusk in residential streets, not exactly tame but cautiously bold. They live in the grassy or wooded areas along the many train lines into the central London train terminals, of which there are about a dozen. They have no natural predators, guns are not allowed, and there are no red-coated huntsmen after them, so they have a pretty placid life. One of them even got to the top of the Shard near London Bridge when it was being built and apparently lived on scraps from workmen’s lunches for a month until it was caught and returned to the ground–not humanely disposed of or turned in for a bounty, but simply turned loose in Bermondsey. I hope they are living on mice and rats, but their diet is probably more like hamburger scraps dropped in the street.

42 thoughts on “Foxes of London

  1. It’s the lack of bins in London, in case TERRORISTS put bombs in them. So people just throw their food leftovers on the ground. So the foxes live pretty well.

    (My theory is that the “IRA” bombings were actually carried out by foxes, aiming to eliminate bins from all urban areas so as to encourage people to throw their food rubbish on the ground.)

    1. Sorry – I have to correct you here.
      Whilst foxes do feed largly from our waste this has nothing to do with the lack of bins due to terrorism. IIRC Bins are only banned from the City of London – an area you are least likely to see an urban fox. I live in south London (SW16) and see foxes on a almost daily basis even though there are many bins. Sadly it’s human laziness that makes people drop food on the floor, not the lack of bins.

    2. I suspect that it’s not so much the absence of rubbish bins on the streets as the common prevalence of putting rubbish out for collection in plastic bin bags. We’ve long had a severe problem with seagulls (“sky rats”) here in Aberdeen, it being a fishing port before it became a cargo port. But with the introduction of rigid plastic “wheelie” bins for all houses and larger on-street wheelie bins in areas of high concentrations of houses split into multiple apartments, the seagull population is in a long-term decline. And good riddance to them too, despite them being dinosaurs.
      Whether the various boroughs of London have made the investments necessary (bins, changing the fleet of rubbish-collecting lorries, training), I don’t know. But control of domestic refuse is an effective way of managing the population of urban pests. It doesn’t eliminate them by a long chalk, but it does control them to a considerable degree.
      Food waste dropped in the street isn’t that much of a problem : it tends to get cleaned up before the night is out. The bag of rubbish outside the back door of a flat will provide food for the thick end of a week, if that’s the interval between trash collections (ours is actually two-weekly ; recyclable waste one week including food waste and garden/ compostable waste ; “general” waste on the alternate weeks).
      It must be the thick end of a year since I saw a rat in the town centre.

  2. I’m in London with my partner at the moment on business. She and I had *no idea* that there were some 10,000 foxes in the city. After a few drinks a couple nights ago, we walked down an alley and had a seat. Then, out from behind a building, a beautiful red fox peeked its head and, after staring at us for 20 seconds or so, scurried away. It was a really marvelous experience – although since we didn’t realize that so many foxes live in the city, we wondered for a couple minutes whether we just had some sort of collective hallucination. 🙂

  3. It used to be thought that city foxes were a purely British phenomenon (records back to the 1800s I think), but they are doing well in many European and Australian cities as well(the latter not necessarily a blessing). Bins full of fast food provide huge amounts of fatty meaty treats for them. And Jerry, while you won’t find them as appealing as red foxes, your city of Chicago has a well established population of urban coyotes.

    1. Yup, we have them in Copenhagen as well. I once lived in the outskirts of the city and every morning when I went to work, I’d come across a very beautiful red fox doing it’s morning rounds. I ended up seeing it so often, that I one day heard myself uttering a cheerful “Goodmorning” when I spotted it.

      1. I sometimes spot them in Jægersborg Dyrehave, or even in Ordrup just across the road. I suspect they’re after squirrels spending too much time on the ground rather than in a high tree…

          1. Meanwhile, I wonder why our military continues to “carry” chaplains. They no longer serve any but their own special little religious faction, these days, and the military has and continues to fill its chaplan spots disproportionately with evangelicals.

          2. [SIGH] Because as men of Ghod, they’re not supposed to spill blood.
            Which is why the weapon designed for bishops to wield in battle is the mace. The specific intention was to enable the bishop to kill by causing massive blunt-force trauma to the skull, without actually spilling blood.
            (Well, that’s the story that I’ve heard. Seriously.)

      1. Yes – in the autumn the females eject the young from their territory and they are naive, not shy & have no knowledge of traffic. This was by the ‘Battlebridge’ over the Regent’s Canal by the new Observer/Guardian building. On previous occasions I have seen a fox run across the road there at 8.30 am one winter morning, narrowly avoiding the cars on a busy road, so I suppose it is a regular route. I have seen them right next to the University of London’s Senate House at only 5-6 feet, & some years ago there was a fox that got into St.Paul’s Cathedral shop through a tiny broken window (in the crypt) & ate some sweets.

  4. Shit, sorry jerry, they weren’t supposed to embed & it’s showing the wrong ones anyway. Could you delete please.

  5. and his fur is perfect

    An allusion to the Warren Zevon song “Werewolves of London” ?

    I saw a werewolf drinking a pina colada at Trader Vic’s His hair was perfect

      1. Warren Zevon, RIP. One of the few (only?) artists for which I am a “completist.” I have every WZ recording. A true genius.

  6. I live near the overland line in Camden. The main problem with foxes is that you can’t leave your recycling bin out overnight, let alone your regular bin.

    I assume some of you foreign types have this problem from bears etc, but it took me quite a while to adjust…

      1. Ah, so wheelie bins have penetrated to the Plains of Englandshire?
        Do bungie cords or such contrivances keep the foxes out?
        Our problem beasts – seagulls – can’t lift the lid of a wheelie bin. If the bin is over-full, then they do often get a drag at the tempting morsels, but that restriction is enough to be bringing the population down. Doesn’t stop them squawking loudly all over town though – more irritating than a teenager’s “music collection” on the bus.

    1. Raccons.

      Some of our waste pickup workers seem to have problems negotiating with the green bins but they present no challenges whatsoever to the local racoon population.

      I had a 50 lb cinder block sitting on top of mine for a while but the racoons formed a committe and overwhelmed it by sheer force of numbers. Had to remove it for fear of injuring one of them when it toppled over.

  7. A while ago (I believe it was when you were in Portugal) about a group of animal behaviorists (is that a word?) and geneticists trying to trace the evolution of the domestic cat back to their place of origin. They had concluded that cats hadn’t been ‘domesticated’ by humans, but in ancient Abyssinia, a species of small wild cats, of their own accord moved into human settlements and established a semi-symbiosis with humans, trading their skill at controlling the vermin population for shelter, a little dietary variety and a good scratching behind the ears. The team also believed that they had discovered that this behavior was possibly in process in Portugal, where a small wild cat appears to be slowly moving into urban areas. I wonder if this could be the case with these foxes.

    1. And with “my” raccoons, too. They don’t do anything as useful and controlling vermin, but they are cute, and “Fred” lets me pet him, now, when he comes over for cat food.

  8. When I lived in Alberta 25 years ago I was involved with a Swift Fox Rehabilitation Project.
    The Swift Fox had been reduced to dangerous levels in Canada – they’re the size of a domestic cat – sort of orangey/tan in colour. By the time I left Alberta for B.C.13 years ago they had made a remarkable recovery. Moving to a small village in BC we had to learn to cope with much larger critters like bears, black and grizzly, cougars and coyotes.

  9. Great to see – but foxes don’t belong in cities like London:

    Fox bites student sleeping in attic – News – London Evening Standard…/fox-bites-student-sleeping-in-attic-6413934.h...
    22 Jun 2011 – A student asleep in his attic bedroom woke up in horror from the pain of a fox biting him on his right eyelid…

    Fox bites London woman on the ear as she sleeps | Mail Online…/Fox-bites-London-woman-ear-sleeps.html
    10 Sep 2010 – Annie Bradwell, 46, woke up when she felt the animal pulling at her hair. Moments later she screamed in agony as it sunk its teeth into her ear, …

    21st Century Fox – The Sun…/The-Sun-reveals-the-rise-of-the-red-menace-th...
    9 Mar 2012 – JULY 2003: Claire Blakeway woke up in agony to find a fox was biting her foot in Stoke Newington, north London. Blood was streaming from …

    Twin girls in hospital after fox attack at London home – Telegraph › News › UK News
    6 Jun 2010 – Twin girls in hospital after fox attack at London home. Two baby twin sisters are seriously ill in hospital…

    1. Not a good thing at all, but much less common and less damaging than bites and/or mauling by pet dogs, mice, rats, ferrets, snakes and yes, even cats. Not to mention large wild animals kept as pets. I advise sleeping with your windows closed or at least well screened.
      And not to be unkind, but I have been bitten by various animals (including people) and although it hurt, I couldn’t apply the term ‘agony’, especially concerning extremities.

  10. I live in Brighton (UK south coast) and there has been a steady increase in fox sightings over the last years (since I moved over here some 8 years ago). They usually only came out in the middle of the night (I used to spot them coming home after a night out).

    I used to live in the north, close to the South Downs, where the earliest, bravest foxes would venture into the city. By now if you walk around anywhere outside the centre centre proper at night, you’re almost guaranteed to see one, crossing the street and disappearing into a nearby garden.

    I like them, sure they probably live off garbage, but any rat or seagull they snatch along the way is one.

  11. Twenty years ago, foxes were seen mainly in the wee small hours in my suburban neighbourhood, some five miles North of the centre of London. I never saw them South of that (except in South London itself, coming from the other side). Now, foxes are often seen at dusk as close as a couple of miles North of the City, and perhaps closer than that.

    1. And in the daytime in E17. Walking down the street and there’s a cheeky red bugger sitting in someone’s front yard, staring back at me with a “wot you lookin’ at?”

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