Photojournalism: Urban Foxes

August 16, 2020

I saw my first fox in 2018 when I started University in Oxford, and since then I have been looking for the opportunity to photograph them.

Urban Red Foxes are much bolder than their rural counterparts, and this young Fox was extremely confident when walking around our college. It was used to seeing people around, and carried out its business searching bins for food, despite being watched by the students. This was the first time I’d photographed a Fox, and I was really pleased that I managed to capture the movement in this photo.

More recently, I have been following a family of Red Foxes in Devon. Although I have only been watching them since the cubs have been quite big, they are still very playful, and a joy to watch. Interestingly, urban foxes have a different social mating system and hierarchy to rural foxes due to the high road-kill mortality rates. Rural foxes typically have one reproductive vixen and several younger female helpers aid with raising the cubs, whereas urban vixens all reproduce and have their own offspring, with no helpers from previous generations.

The family in Devon initially had three cubs, but one disappeared shortly after the litter emerged, so the female has been rearing two ever since. After a few outings where I sat quietly and watched them, I started taking photos and getting the cubs used to the lens clicking – they very quickly grew quite comfortable with the sound, and continued their activities as if I wasn’t there. In this photo, one of the cubs was watching me whilst the other had a scratch.

Compared to their mother, the cubs look pristine – with much glossier coats and larger eyes. The vixen is reliant on her male partner for food when the cubs are first born, as they are born deaf and blind, and don’t leave the den until they are about four weeks old. Red Foxes are also monogamous, and there are reports of some foxes exhibiting signs of grief when their partner dies, including staying with the body for long periods of time, and even burying the body. However, whether or not this behaviour represents grief remains unconfirmed.

Watching the Fox cubs has been such a privilege, especially being able to get so close to them. At one point, one of the cubs appeared in the hedge behind where I was lying, looking straight into my eyes before bounding away.

Red Foxes are truly magical, and I hope to continue documenting their behaviour in the future.

References and Further Reading

Baker P. J, Robertson C. P. J, Funk S. M, Harris S. (1998) Potential fitness benefits of group living in the red fox, Vulpes Vulpes; Animal Behaviour, Issue 56, pp. 1411-1424.

Greene A. (2017) Fun Facts about the Red Fox, Available: https://www.jacksonwild.org/blog/fun-facts-about-the-red-fox

Harris S. & Baker P. (2001) Urban foxes: Whittet Books, Suffolk

The Mammal Group, University of Bristol (2014) The Fox Website: Ecology and behaviour: Growing up, Available: http://www.thefoxwebsite.net/ecology/ecologygrowingup

Wildlife Online (2020) Do foxes & badgers bury their dead?, Available: https://www.wildlifeonline.me.uk/questions/answer/do-foxes-badgers-bury-their-dead