NaBloPoMo 5: In Defence of the Red Fox

November 6, 2012 in Afterhours, London Living, NaBloPoMo, Personal, Pictures, Slideshow

You have seven hundred words to justify the existence of your favourite person, place, or thing.
Failure to convince will result in it vanishing without a trace. Go!

Sly. Wiley. Trickery. Deceit. The European red fox could rightly launch a defamation claim against the human race for how it has been portrayed in the folklore and mythology of numerous human cultures.

Even today the word ‘vermin’ is bandied around when referring to the red fox, when in fact it is not, and never has been, categorised as ‘vermin’ by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA); the only body empowered to impose the term on a wild species. A widely misunderstood animal, I’d like to use my NaBloPoMo post today to speak up in defence of my favourite animal, and hopefully change a few minds.

Foxes are often reviled for exhibiting traits which we humans supposedly find unattractive; scavenging, aggressiveness, cunning, ruthlessness and loner tendencies. This has always confused me, and in my mind shows a stubborn determination to see only the bad – if we were to flip these assumptions on their axes and look to positively anthropomorphise vulpine characterisctics, we may see an entirely different creature…

Loyal and family-oriented: Around 50 days after a dog fox and a vixen have mated, a litter of four or five helpless cubs is born, utterly blind and entirely dependent on their parents for their survival.  The dedicated vixen stays by the side of her cubs in the earth until they are at least two weeks old, relying on the heroic dog fox to bring her and their young family the food they need to live.

Flexible, thrifty and frugal: Just like humans, foxes are a master at adaptation. This successful animal can be found roaming the inner cities, schmoozing in the suburbs and congregating in the countryside. They are such a success because they are wiling to eat almost anything. Although a necessary skill, hunting is unlikely to be the preferred way of life for any fox (though they helpfully hunt pests such as rats and mice), who prefer to scavenge. They are one of nature’s natural recyclers – an animal built for sustainability.

Protective and courageous: Don’t believe the hype; despite what media scare tactics may tell you, the risks of people being attacked by a fox are negligible. In comparison, the risk of injury from domestic dogs and cats is very much higher. For example, the most recent figures, for the year ending April 2012, showed a total of 6,450 admissions for dog bites – with young children suffering the most wounds. It seems people tend to forget that the red fox is a wild animal, and of course will react defensively if they feel they or their family are threatened – just like any human being would.

Persevering, determined and independent: With the growing problem of humans putting out food for foxes and treating them more akin to a cute lawn ornament than a wild animal, it’s worth remembering that foxes don’t need us. They have always coped. They always will.

This is another reason to stand against hunting; it has no impact on fox numbers. Foxes are so wonderfully good at adapting that any reduction in fox numbers is quickly filled by other foxes moving into the empty territory and by breeding. Furthermore, fox populations are self-regulating due to disease, natural predators (badgers, eagles etc) and resource competition.

In other words, those who get dolled up in their costumes and ride out on horseback are only causing unnecessary and immense suffering to terrified, intelligent and incredible creatures – not actually doing anything to control their numbers or protect livestock. These people are doing exactly what they profess to hate; needlessly and cruelly killing. Even worse, these humans, unlike foxes, are often doing it for fun.

Since I’m nearing my word limit for today’s post, I’ll leave you with some photos of the magnificent wild creature itself, and the thought that we appear far too ready to punish a wild animal for exhibiting traits, good and bad, found in pretty damn close to home. Try looking in the mirror sometime and imagining how you’d be as a wild animal.