The red fox is the most widespread and abundant wild carnivore in the world. Found throughout the UK, it is very common in London, and in other urban areas even more so than in the rural areas. Red foxes have adapted very well to the changing environment of urbanisation.
Foxes belong to the Canidae family, which includes wolves, coyotes, grey foxes, dogs and others. All members of this family are highly adaptable animals making them successful colonisers in many areas of the world and in all habitats available, often in close proximity to humans.
The red fox is omnivorous, with a varied diet ranging from worms, fruit, small mammals and birds. Discarded food from rubbish bins forms only a third of their diet when living in urban areas. Having a broad diet and specialised eyes increases their chance of survival as they are able to feed and live in many different habitats. Foxes are great night-time predators because their eyes are specially adapted to night vision. Behind the light sensitive cells lies another layer called the tapetum lucidum which reflects light back through the eye. This doubles the intensity of images received by the fox.
The red fox started appearing in towns and cities following World War I due to a change in people’s lifestyles.The species first colonised British cities during the 1930s, entering Bristol and London during the 1940s, and later established themselves in Cambridge and Norwich. New transport systems allowed people to travel and suburban housing was built in once rural areas. Foxes quickly adapted, taking advantage of the food and shelter provided in these new relatively large gardens. Today there can be more opportunities of food and shelter in towns and cities than in the surrounding countryside, with the destruction of hedgerows, scrubs and habitat loss. Generations of foxes have spread inwards towards the city centre and live closely to humans.
Foxes living in cities may have the potential to grow larger than their rural counterparts, due to abundant food from bins and lack of predators. Some urban human residents will deliberately leave food out for the foxes giving them an advantage.
The number of foxes being drawn to urban living is thought to have increased significantly in the last two decades. There are thought to be 10,000 foxes in London. Over 60% of the fox population are killed due to traffic accidents every year; however the number of foxes in London remains constant due to being highly adaptable and balance of birth and mortality rates.
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