Interview: Mark Evans on 'Foxes Live: Wild in the City'

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Gabriel Tate discovers how to take part in C4's live, interactive study of urban foxes

It sounds like an urban ‘Springwatch Live’.

‘The BBC does great natural history, but we’re interested in the relationship between humans and wildlife. For such a familiar animal, we know very little about fox numbers or behaviour. Although people are seeing them more, I’m not convinced they’re growing in number – they may just be getting bolder. Being an urban fox is a tough life, and I really do admire its ability to adapt to unnatural environments.’

What will you be asking people to contribute?

‘We want their experiences of and opinions on foxes, as well as any sightings, and any photos and videos uploaded to the website. Then we’ll use it to plot an interactive map and feed the information through to experts at Brighton University.’

Why has it been more than 30 years since the last major study of urban foxes?

‘Funding. Who’s interested in doing proper science on foxes? But the government is now interested, because foxes could act as a reservoir of disease. Britain is free of rabies but, if it did return, the government would want to know where these potential carriers are. There’s a natural balance that tends to be struck through disease, though: when populations increase, there’s competition for resources, so foxes have to travel further for food and disease transmission between them rises.’

Quite apart from the issue of disease, urban foxes get a pretty bad press for being aggressive.

‘Well, people have to be careful. We’ll look at humane methods of fox control, but equally – if you want to interact with them – avoid feeding them or touching them. The joy of urban foxes comes in watching them. Feeding them affects individual foxes, but also the evolution of the species. By encouraging bolder foxes, they may be more successful in breeding as a result of that, and we may end up with foxes being more likely to interact with people where they aren’t welcome.’

They’re an incredibly divisive beast.

‘Absolutely. Some would happily shoot them, others would happily stand in front of the gun. It becomes personal when foxes invade your space. I’ve interviewed a woman who saw a fox maul her chihuahua. I don’t doubt what she says, but the dog is feisty and territorial, so equally I have no doubt the chihuahua started it. That kind of perspective is so important in understanding fox behaviour.’

Some councils are considering culling or eradication programmes. Is there a point at which you’d advocate a cull?

‘I try to keep an open mind, but any decisions ought to be evidence-based. One thing I’ve found while filming natural history programmes for C4 is how much of it is about human-animal conflict. We live in a shrinking world and have to share that space. In Cape Town, the human-baboon conflict has got completely out of hand because it hasn’t been planned for: some people are feeding them, others are trying to kill them. It’s the same dynamic with foxes here. Foxes aren’t going to go away, and why should they? There’s more to this world than us.’

‘Foxes Live: Wild in the City’, starts Mon, 8pm, C4. For more information, go to www.channel4.com/foxes. Follow Mark Evans on Twitter: @markevanstv


Users say

7 comments
d. donaldson
d. donaldson

the fox killer with a gun, seemed to attempt to justify his "work " by killing one fox who is an inconvenience, another fox will take up that space ! the answer seems to be, keep in his job of murdering foxes, and doubtless numerous other species.

roger  key
roger key

Hello Mark, i am a former pest controler that lived in leamington spa.I used to do do some work ,on Foxes in a village called Bishops Tachbrook.I found that using RENADINE painted on the entrances to where the infestation is made the foxes move on to other areas. you can buy it from any major pestcontrol suppliers ,,ie KILLGERM. It is quite safe to use around your garden , but it has one draw back . it smells , and that the deterant.It's much better than killing the animal. i did come to your house many years ago when i had KEY PEST CONTROL but you were still at school.

Elaine
Elaine

Brilliant program

lynn manchester
lynn manchester

foxes are lovely creatures we should learn to live and let live the world would be a sad place without them

ilona
ilona

foxes are part of our environment and its so cruel that they should suffer through bad press.hopefully this program will help their image. Quetion-:is it possible to put some kind of fox curd out that can treat them against mainge and other illness.i beleive they do this in some other european countries????

surrey fox control
surrey fox control

foxes do get bad press .but remember it is a wild animal .a fox will protect herself and her cubs .i get quite a few calls where foxes have engaged battle with dogs . a dog will protect his terriorty as will a fox .the attacks on small children is a fox acting on his instinc .a crying child is simular to that of a crying rabbit etc a distress call which alerts the foxes instinc to hunt it down as a easy meal be it a rabbit or a child they dont know the difference .the urban fox has no real enermys only the car /train and man .but do need to be controlled as there numbers are great .the urban fox was once a delight to veiw in your garden if you were lucky enough to see one .now people are having a job shooing them away from there back doors .my thoughts on the urban fox is get the numbers down .not to banish them from our towns but control them .noel [surrey fox control ]

russ
russ

i have no problem with foxes in the city,there is a good food source for foxes the numerous chcken take aways etc.i have actually seen a fox walking down the road with a take away box in its mouth