CHRISTMAS OFFER Subscribe to Devon Life today CLICK HERE

Fox and the City

PUBLISHED: 10:20 20 December 2007 | UPDATED: 10:51 28 February 2013

Urban foxes

Urban foxes

Urban foxes are on the increase. David Ireland from the Devon Wildlife Trust considers the reasons

Urban areas are set to expand as the human population continues its inexorable growth and there are already a number of species that are taking advantage of this new habitat. In our cities some notable species are taking to the streets.


Hedgehogs and grey squirrels are two of the best-known visitors, but rare treats can also be seen such as the majestic peregrine falcon, which has adapted to exploit the artificial cliff faces of tall buildings.


However, when people think of urban animals it is possibly the fox that comes to mind first of all. Conspicuous by their size and opportunistic by nature, foxes have been able to adapt very well to living in close proximity to humans. They are social and playful in character and live in family groups.


Foxes are now well established in British cities but this has only really happened over the last few decades. It is not exactly known why they started this move. One theory was that they moved out of the rural areas in the 1950s as myxomatosis had a heavy impact on one of their main food sources, the rabbit population. However, a more plausible theory is that the move to more suburban city design provided ideal habitat for foxes and they have thrived there ever since.


Foxes are often thought of as being cunning, but with today's take-away culture and plenty of rubbish around they do not have to exert much brainpower to find food in our urban environment. Cities are often quiet during the night so foxes are free to roam the streets and move from garden to garden making the most of what we leave lying around.


Life is not all roses for the fox. They arouse mixed feelings and are treated like vermin by some. But it is not just this stigma they have to deal with. With increasing traffic levels in our cities fox roadkill is common. A second, silent killer has also taken hold in recent years. Mange is a nasty disease which in the last decade has seriously dented the fox population in many UK cities. It is caused by a parasite which invades the skin, and signs of it include loss of fur.


Devon Wildlife Trust's Devon Biodiversity Records Centre keeps records of a whole host of wildlife spotted throughout the county, including the fox. Sadly, many of the records are of dead animals but these are still important when looking at population densities and behaviour. Many of the records from Plymouth are of road casualties, but DBRC still has people catching glimpses of them in their gardens.


DBRC has had more records for the Exeter area over the past few years. This may not mean that there are more foxes present in the city but more probably that there are more people recording them there. Bowling Green Marsh in Topsham keeps popping up as a prime location to see foxes, as do both Hoopern and Duryard valleys.



The best time to see foxes is during the mating season. The young are born during March and once they have grown in confidence can often be seen playing and learning to catch easy prey such as earthworms. Once July comes they are forced to forage for themselves and soon disperse to find their own territories.


It is fascinating to have foxes sharing our urban space with us. They help make up a rich tapestry of wildlife species that are willing, despite our best efforts to prevent them, to live alongside us. We must embrace them all and try to turn our gardens into wildlife havens if we are to avoid completely disconnecting the link between ourselves and nature.



Recording fox sightings


Send fox sightings via the DWT website at www.devonwildlifetrust.org by clicking on 'send in your sightings'. Alternatively, write to: Devon Biodiversity Records Centre, c/o Exeter Central Library, Castle Street, Exeter, EX4 3PQ. Details should include the recorder's name, full address and phone number; the date of the sighting; species name and any notes (such as alive/dead; male/female; adult/juvenile, etc.) and location details (OS grid reference or address and postcode, or a good description of the location including road names/numbers and village/town names, plus any properties that appear on an OS map). If you are interested in recording regularly, ask for the Recording Pack which provides details of current recording schemes.


0 comments

More from Out & About

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

With breathtaking beaches, rolling countryside, stately homes and unique villages, it’s no wonder high-profile film productions flock to Devon - how well do you know the movies that have set up camp here however?

Read more
Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Whether it’s on our beautiful beaches, in our magnificent moors or within our stunning stately homes, film productions are constantly setting up in Devon. Here are 16 that you might not know used the county as a filming location

Read more
Friday, October 26, 2018

From angry spirits to headless horses and ghoulish monks, Devon has more than a few supernatural stories to get your skin crawling. We have picked 11 haunted places in the county

Read more
Tuesday, October 23, 2018

October is the perfect time to discover the joys of Exmoor. Jennette Baxter of Visit Exmoor suggests five great ways to enjoy autumn on the moor

Read more
Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Wild camping can be one of the best ways to escape the crowds for a night or two and lose yourself in the landscape - SOPHIE PAVELLE chooses her five favourite places to ‘wild-life’ camp in Devon

Read more
Tuesday, October 9, 2018

From sandy beaches and lighthouse-topped cliffs to views of the Jurassic Coast, the Devon coastline offers many perfect locations for a seaside walk. We pick 10 of the prettiest routes to take

Read more
Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Take our quiz to find out how well you really know Devon

Read more
Tuesday, October 2, 2018

As the weather starts to warm up and the Devon countryside beckons, LIZZIE JANE of the National Trust in the South West offers plenty of walk ideas for you to try. Whether you want a relaxed Sunday stroll or a more strenuous hike, here are 10 walks across Devon (and beyond) to help you escape the crowds and head off the beaten track

Read more
Tuesday, September 25, 2018

The South West Coast Path is celebrating 40 years by calling on people to help raise £40,000. To show their support, teams from Devon’s top tourist attractions are preparing to take to the trail. CHRISSY HARRIS finds out more

Read more
Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Away from the hustle of places like Woolacombe and Ilfracombe, North Devon is peppered with tiny coves, empty beaches and wooded walks leading to secluded bays that feel a million miles away from the tourist trail. BECKY DICKINSON reveals her pick of the best kept secrets on the North Devon coast

Read more
Friday, September 14, 2018

As part of her regular series where she visits Devon’s best places for 24 hours, Lydia Tewkesbury has this time been to Sidmouth

Read more
Thursday, September 13, 2018

Ranging from rocky and windy walkways along the South West Coast Path to the sandy beaches on the picturesque coastline, the district of North Devon is one of the prettiest coastal areas in the South West of England. In no particular order, here are 10 of the prettiest villages in the district of North Devon

Read more
Tuesday, September 11, 2018

In Devon’s towns and cities there’s an awful lot you can do in just 24 hours. For her regular feature, Lydia Tewkesbury travels to see what you can do in a day in Kingsbridge

Read more
Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Villages in Devon are some of the prettiest in the South West. From beautiful little hamlets on the outskirts of the moors to seaside communities, we pick 10 villages in Devon you need to visit

Read more

Newsletter Sign Up

Sign up to the following newsletters:

Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter

Our Privacy Policy



Topics of Interest

Food and Drink Directory

Subscribe or buy a mag today


subscription ad

Local Business Directory

Property Search