November Footage Spotlight – Urban Foxes

Red foxes have been documented in Britain’s urban areas since the 1930s. This month’s footage highlights focus on a family of urban foxes in a London allotment, and are filmed by Matthew Maran.

Juvenile red fox playing with slipper

Juvenile red fox (Vulpes vulpes) playing with slipper in an allotment, London, UK, August. Foxes dig out dens to provide a safe underground space to raise their cubs. In urban areas, these are often under sheds, among tree roots, on railway embankments or on allotments or other green spaces.

Matt commented:

Turning my attention to moving images has been great fun and a steep learning curve. It’s a wonderful way to diversify content on a long term project and a way to tell the story from a different angle and to engage a wider audience. The same rules apply when it comes to gathering interesting footage: good composition, behaviour and sharp, well exposed frames shown in beautiful light.”

 

Red fox vixen grooming her cub, cars passing behind

Red fox (Vulpes vulpes) vixen grooming her cub in an allotment, with cars passing behind, London, England, UK, June. Foxes generally seem to live longer in the wild than in urban environments, and one reason for this is believed to be mortality due to traffic accidents in urban areas.

“Showing an animal in its environment is such an important part of any wildlife story. Whether shooting stills or video, the background is as important as the subject, especially when it comes to urban foxes. It’s my mission with these sequences to show how these animals manage to survive among millions of people in UK cities.”

 

Red fox vixen grooming her cub, dusk

Red fox (Vulpes vulpes) vixen grooming her cub at dusk, London, England, UK, June. Grooming is an important social component in a fox society. It appears that the more a fox cub is groomed by parents and compatriots, the more likely it is to remain in the family group once is reaches maturity.

“In my time watching and photographing fox families I see a highly intelligent, industrious and opportunistic animal surviving against all the odds. I wish to do a good PR job for these foxes with my work by showing footage like this. The foxes I’ve photographed over the past 3 years spend much time grooming each other, helping to strengthen bonds and do away with mites and ticks. Entering into their world, it’s possible to see how intimate they are with each other by showing a great deal of affection – a far cry from the blood thirsty killers some members of the press would like you to believe.”

 

Red fox cubs play fighting

Red fox (Vulpes vulpes) cubs play fighting in an allotment, London, England, UK, July. Fox cubs play fight from an early age, and while this helps to develop muscles, coordination and (later) hone hunting skills, it also helps establish a dominance hierarchy.

From about three weeks old, the cubs squabble over pieces of food and the largest cub—irrespective of sex, but usually a male—is typically the alpha. It is not unknown for fox cubs to kill (and eat) each other during this initial period of social order establishment, and it is estimated that about 20% of cubs die underground, many as a result of fights with litter mates.

Matt concluded:

“Cubs of many mammals are such a draw for the viewer. Not only are they very cute, but there is an innocence in their behaviour which is a joy to observe. Capturing these two engaging in rough and tumble play fighting unaware of my presence was such a thrill. Also significant was illustrating the vital skills they learn for survival by play fighting with one another.”