Autumnwatch & Springwatch

If you’ve ever woken up to a fox calling in the night it will probably have been during the winter: this is the time when foxes are most vocal.

Researchers have reported around 20 different sounds made by foxes (including eight distinct cub calls), and most of these occur commonly between December and February. Foxes are establishing breeding territories in the winter as they need to attract and keep mates and defend their patch against potential intruders.

Tracking Brighton's urban fox population

This is not conjecture – scientists have recorded a higher frequency of aggressive (e.g. screams, yell-whines) and contact (e.g. ‘ratchet’) calls in winter than in other seasons – and the specific frequency and volume of these noises mean that their purpose is most likely to relate to threat and/or pair bonding.

One reason for doing fox research is to tease apart fact from fiction, for example regarding foxes attacking or spreading disease to their children or pets. In our study we compare overlap between domestic cat and fox territories (in order to explore opportunities for disease transmission), and record mange, ticks and fleas on foxes when we trap them.

We hope to extend this to other parasites in the near future– in particular the canine and feline lungworms and heartworms, which are thought to be increasing. However information is lacking as to the risk of foxes passing them on to pets and people. What we do know is that the two canine species that are widespread in UK fox populations – ‘French heartworm’ and ‘Fox lungworm’ don’t infect humans.

Genetic and veterinary studies show that transmission occurs between foxes and dogs (and potentially between each of these and cats) causing persistent coughing, but infection is not known to be fatal. Neither are these parasites passed on directly - they need a vector in order to spread, and this is usually slugs, snails or mosquitos.

As to whether young children are safe in urban gardens – well, foxes are wild carnivores, and as such must be treated with caution. However, in my opinion the chances of foxes attacking babies or children outside are extraordinarily low. Common sense should prevail: don’t hand-feed or attract them into your house, but there is no need to be afraid of them.

Comments

This entry is now closed for comments.

  • Comment number 26. Posted by WildCottage

    on 26 Jan 2014 12:57

    On the last broadcast of Winterwatch, Chris Packham showed a map of sightings for Red Fox (Vulpes vulpes). I was watching a recording of the programme and was able to freeze the picture. I was astonished to see a marker along the Ross of Mull! As far as I am aware there are no Red Fox on the Isle of Mull. Was I mistaken?

    • This entry is now closed for comments. Number of positive ratings for comment 26: 0
    • This entry is now closed for comments. Number of negative ratings for comment 26: 0
    Loading…
  • Comment number 25. Posted by john

    on 26 Jan 2014 12:39

    I kept geese free range in my Chorley garden for 25 years then in late 1990's a fox came and killed the 6 geese we had at that time over 2 nights as we had no cabin to put them in. We now have to put the geese into a cabin each night before dark but we did have one fox come in the daytime and kill a goose before we chased it off. I think the foxes started coming into the garden after the law was changed so that dog owners had to stop their animals wandering the streets we often used to see groups of dogs roaming through the local park and town centre, now they are all on leads which I agree is a good thing as many women and children used to be frightened by stray dogs. So I think the local foxes just moved in when the dogs were kept at home.We do not have a dog so the foxes have nothing to fear.

    • This entry is now closed for comments. Number of positive ratings for comment 25: 0
    • This entry is now closed for comments. Number of negative ratings for comment 25: 0
    Loading…
  • Comment number 24. Posted by judith grassick

    on 25 Jan 2014 13:55

    as requested by the winterwatch team,we had a fox climb over our wall last week in Aberdeen.My husband is an early riser and spots lots of wildlife.

    • This entry is now closed for comments. Number of positive ratings for comment 24: 0
    • This entry is now closed for comments. Number of negative ratings for comment 24: 0
    Loading…
  • Comment number 23. Posted by John B

    on 24 Jan 2014 21:34

    I knew somebody would want to blame foxes for that Hilly. It figures, probly humans fault, it came from the US, where incidentally they seem to have the highest concentration of bio warfare labs too. Coincidence?

    • This entry is now closed for comments. Number of positive ratings for comment 23: 0
    • This entry is now closed for comments. Number of negative ratings for comment 23: 0
    Loading…
  • Comment number 22. Posted by Kevpix

    on 24 Jan 2014 19:05

    A few years ago we had these two mating foxes in our garden for nearly two hours during a bitterly cold January period...

    http://kevinphillips.co.uk/UKFOXES.html

    Subsequently had a bit of fun with them whilst learning new video editing software..

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1b1EUfpjET0&feature=c4-overview&list=UU10X73PnJP4A-TFyPCivumw

    • This entry is now closed for comments. Number of positive ratings for comment 22: 0
    • This entry is now closed for comments. Number of negative ratings for comment 22: 0
    Loading…
  • Comment number 21. Posted by Melanie

    on 23 Jan 2014 22:19

    I live in stoke on trent opposite a school and there are foxes living in the field behind the school opposite my house, there is a lovely group and we've seen 4 different foxes so far :)

    • This entry is now closed for comments. Number of positive ratings for comment 21: 1
    • This entry is now closed for comments. Number of negative ratings for comment 21: 0
    Loading…
  • Comment number 20. Posted by Mia Boyd

    on 23 Jan 2014 22:06

    Remember the chip shop family of foxes that was on a few years ago? Any idea how they're getting on and if there are still foxes there a few generations on?

    • This entry is now closed for comments. Number of positive ratings for comment 20: 1
    • This entry is now closed for comments. Number of negative ratings for comment 20: 0
    Loading…
  • Comment number 19. Posted by Raymond Wilby

    on 23 Jan 2014 22:04

    Whilst travelling home by taxi on Monday evening saw a fox crossing the road in front of us.
    Four weeks ago whilst on my allotment late one afternoon as the light was dropping a fox walked up the main path approx. 15 yards in front of me not realising I was sat in the greenhouse (changing my footwear)
    Morley, West Yorkshire

    • This entry is now closed for comments. Number of positive ratings for comment 19: 1
    • This entry is now closed for comments. Number of negative ratings for comment 19: 0
    Loading…
  • Comment number 18. Posted by tboysadie

    on 23 Jan 2014 22:02

    id like to know what you plan on doing to help the fox with his broken leg surely he needs treatment to survive ?

    • This entry is now closed for comments. Number of positive ratings for comment 18: 0
    • This entry is now closed for comments. Number of negative ratings for comment 18: 0
    Loading…
  • Comment number 17. Posted by Tans

    on 23 Jan 2014 20:43

    We have a farm in Northumberland and have had big problems with the rural foxes killing our lambs at lambing time, sometimes taking five a night we decided to kill them to try and stop this problem. To start with it worked but after a year or two the problem came back and got worse so we changed or plan and started to feed them at lamming time. So far this has worked and we hardly have any taken.
    I was just wondering if we are going to make a problem for our self’s in the future as we may have more than ever foxes in years to come.
    what do you think?

    • This entry is now closed for comments. Number of positive ratings for comment 17: 0
    • This entry is now closed for comments. Number of negative ratings for comment 17: 0
    Loading…
More comments

More Posts

Previous

Next