Urban fox update from Brighton

Over the past 9 months we have been gathering data from 13 Brighton foxes with GPS collars, including dog foxes and breeding vixens with established territories, non-breeding vixens, and young adults of both sexes. We are also monitoring the progress of a litter of cubs that are being jointly reared by two vixens, investigating whether counts of dens can be used to estimate numbers of foxes over larger areas, and using digital mapping to look for urban features that might be attractive to foxes. We continue to investigate the broad patterns of fox occurrence in UK cities via questionnaire and web-based surveys.


A picture is beginning to emerge about what makes a good place to live if you are a fox in a city, and why. Our findings so far suggest that Brighton foxes are more abundant and travel shorter distances in parts of the city that are residential but not so heavily populated e.g. suburban houses with large private gardens. Conversely there are fewer foxes where people are more closely packed together such as housing closer to the city centre, and these foxes regularly travel relatively greater distances. In general, public green spaces such as parks and football pitches don’t seem to be very fox-friendly when compared to private gardens. We believe that this may be related to regular food supplies as well as places to den and rest up during the day.


As for longer-term movements, some of our results seem to challenge the received wisdom about rural and urban foxes; i.e. that they don’t mix! Two of our collared foxes: Fleet and Fennec left the city and headed for the hills before apparently starting to come back again, suggesting more fluid movement between town, city and country than previously believed.   


There are still many unanswered questions. Over the next year or so we will continue to map populations in several cities, use proximity collars to monitor how foxes interact with each other, and investigate how people feeding foxes affects their behaviour and movement patterns.  Watch this space!

 

Dr Bryony Tolhurst
Senior Lecturer in Ecology

 

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