Urban foxes are a familiar sight in London. They wake us up with screeches in the night, and getting spooked by an orange streak darting out of a hedge on a tipsy walk home is practically a rite of passage. They’ve even been spotted in the choir stalls at St Paul’s Cathedral. But why does the capital have so many of the red mammals roaming its streets?
‘The red fox started appearing in cities following World War I,’ explains Mathew Frith, director of conservation at the London Wildlife Trust. ‘New transport systems allowed people to work in one place and live in another, and suburban housing was built in once rural areas. Foxes quickly adapted, taking advantage of the food and shelter in these new, relatively large gardens.’
The trust estimates there are around 10,000 foxes living in London at the moment and in certain boroughs they’re more common than in the surrounding countryside. As foxes have become used to sharing their habitats with humans, they’ve spread into the centre of the city. ‘The number of foxes drawn to urban living is thought to have increased significantly in the last three decades,’ says Frith. ‘There are now very few areas of London where they aren’t present.’
But city living isn’t without risks: 60 percent of the fox population dies in traffic each year. Despite this, the number of foxes in London seems to remain constant, and London life has its perks. ‘There can be more opportunities for food and shelter in cities than in the countryside,’ says Frith. Maybe our plucky pals have got a taste now for stale sourdough and vegan fried chicken.
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