Today I’ve been visiting the Fox Project, just outside Tunbridge Wells. It’s a charity dedicated to rescuing sick or injured foxes, rehabilitating and re-releasing them. Founded by Trevor Williams in 1991, and now run by Sandra Reddy, the charity takes in about 700 foxes each year, of which around 250 are cubs. Right now, the cub season has just begun, and Trevor has already taken in a couple of cubs at his home, with the expectation of, unfortunately, many more to come. The vixen (female fox) often moves her cubs from one den or ‘earth’ to another, and cubs often get left behind. If the Fox Project cannot reunite the cubs with their mother, they have to bring them in for round-the-clock care.
The adult foxes spend about a week in the ‘hospital’, often being treated for mange, a canine mite that leaves them bald and can kill the fox if it isn’t treated. After a week, they are transferred to an outdoor enclosure in a volunteer’s garden. The charity makes every attempt to release all foxes back to their home territory. One reason for the speedy turnaround is that after two weeks, another fox will probably start to move into that territory, so the fox needs to be back there to protect its home range.
During the spring cub season, people sometimes put out extra food to help the vixen to feed the cubs more easily. Some people grow very attached to a fox visiting their garden and are quickly aware if it disappears.
We also talked about how foxes get caught up in negative media reporting, sometimes quite sensationalist. Some of the recent stories of fox attacks on children have been contested, and foxes often end up as the scapegoat. They have become a highly ‘political’ animal, with debates in parliament over the hunting ban and even suggestions a few years ago by then-London mayor Boris Johnson that urban fox hunting could be a possible solution.
One of the things that struck me was the level of interconnectedness between foxes and humans in London and the south east. Although they may receive quite negative press attention, it’s clear from the experience at The Fox Project that plenty of Londoners care about these wild animals are are keen to care for them and look out for them when they need assistance.
Update: 17/04/17: Watch a short five minute film about the work of the fox project, the life of foxes, and fox-human relations.