Urban Foxes. Live in the City. Close encounters of the Foxy kind.

I was delighted when Channel Four announced their programme about urban foxes, firstly because I love foxes and secondly because one of the characters in my book, “The Grail of the Unicorn Planet,” is an urban fox called Rufus. In my book, the children are able to communicate with him, made possible by the wizard Signet. He is an important character as he prevents the children being caught by two dangerous criminals.  He also shows them how to use the T.A.M the device enabling Archie to space travel to the planet Altair to warn Signet that  the evil wizard Vastator is behind the plague on Altair.

I was even more delighted when two students appeared at our door, part of the Sussex University team taking part into the research on urban foxes.  They explained how the unit had needed special permission by the Home Office to trap a fox, as this is usually illegal. They caught a year old vixen in the humane trap and put a collar on her enabling them to track her movements.  They have called her Grace.  The reason the students called at our house was because her tracks showed that her territory is all the back gardens behind the houses up and down the street in Hollingbury Road.

We have a patio above an extension at the back of the house where we sit and drink Pimms or Sangria in the hot weather but the rest of our garden is an ecosphere. It is lovely as we sit on the patio and watch all the wild life, butterflies, squirrels and birds. Last year we used to watch three fox cubs playing with their mother on the next-door neighbour’s lawn.  The students explored our garden and found foxholes, so probably last year’s den was in our garden and the cubs chose the rather neater lawn next door as their playground.  The students think that maybe Grace was one of these cubs, as it is customary for female foxes to stay in their home environment and help their mother raise the next batch of cubs, like an older sister or aunt.

The students told us that the programme makers were also interested to research how foxes got along with cats.  They asked if we would mind putting collars on our cats so that they could track the cat’s movements together with the foxes to see if they interacted. We told them that we would not mind but our cats would probably object.  Especially Jemila, who is one quarter Siamese, as the last time we tried to put a flea collar on her she acted like a cross between a tigress and bucking bronco.  We thought that our other cat Treacle might be more malleable, but as we adopted her have no previous experience of her ever wearing a collar or how she would take to it. They said they would send a member of their team round but so far have not been back to us.

I leave food out for the foxes at my father’s house in Welbeck Avenue Hove, especially when it is cold and snowing. I don’t feed the foxes at our house because  they would never find the food in our garden!

I have had a few encounters with foxes.  The first when I went out in my father’s garden one day I found a fox curled up, sleeping in the sun on a flowerbed.  I wanted to be friendly and  talk to it but it leapt up and ran for its life. My second encounter with foxes was luckier and was very special to me. I lived in a small quiet road in Hollingdean near to my present house and one night parked my car  down the road as it was late and there were no spaces near my house.  As I walked up the road I saw a fox walking nonchalantly in the middle of the road following me.  I was so surprised that I said, ”Hello what are you doing here?” The fox walked over to the grass verge opposite me, sat down and studied me inquisitively.  He was not a bit frightened as I apologized that I had no chicken but would make him a cheese sandwich if he liked.  When I came out of my house again with the sandwich, he had disappeared.  I left the sandwich and in the morning it was gone so I don’t know whether the fox or the local seagulls enjoyed it.

The last encounter was very sad as one day when I went into my father’s garden I found a dead fox lying on the grass. I could not see any injuries but maybe he had been hit by a car and crawled into the garden to die. I cried my eyes out as he looked so sad lying stretched out on the grass.  I think he was a male as he was quite big and I only hope he didn’t suffer.  I phoned the local council and they told me to put him in a black bag by the front gate and arranged to collect him. My son comforted me by saying, “Don’t cry mum, it’s the circle of life and there are plenty more fox cubs growing up to take his place.”  I still wept for that poor old fox but I hope that Grace will play her part and help her Mother to bring up some new fox cubs and my wish is that they will thrive and become the next generation of urban foxes.