A significant part of our culture
I SYMPATHISE with Bristol public relations manager Tim Stanley who is calling on the council to control the city's "dangerous" fox population following news that a baby boy was dragged from his cot by a fox in South East London.
Mr Stanley's idea of a cull is unfair to the fox. Cabinet member Gus Hoyt has the best idea and called for a "considered" and balanced approach. Foxes are almost always nocturnal and do their best to avoid contact with us. Nowadays an encounter with a fox is much more likely to happen if you are in a town and there are two reasons why this is the case.
First, you are more likely to see them in the headlights of cars or when an infra red patio light is activated by an animal in the garden but secondly, and perhaps more surprisingly, their population density is actually greater in urban areas than in the countryside.
One estimate suggests that roughly a quarter of all foxes in Britain live in urban areas. It is thought that Bristol once had the highest density of breeding foxes in the world.
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The total British population is stable at around a 250,000 but where foxes breed in high density densities disease can spread quickly.
The famous, or perhaps infamous, population of foxes in Bristol reached a peak in 1996 before being decimated by mange. The fox has been subject to persecution over the years but its population was withstood the pressure. Many people don't like to have foxes around, particularly if they keep chickens, but through a long and often difficult relationship, the fox has become a very significant part of our culture.
Thankfully foxes are smart enough to stay out of our way for the majority of the time but that elusiveness makes them even more appealing.
D F Courtney