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. Matt tells us more about his fascination with foxes and how he started using video as well as stills to document their behaviour.
Juvenile red fox playing with slipper
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.
Matt told us more about getting started shooting video:
“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. Also it allows me to tell the story from a different angle and to engage a wider audience. The same rules apply as in still photography when it comes to gathering interesting footage. Namely, good composition, interesting behaviour and sharp, well exposed frames shown in beautiful light.”
Red fox vixen grooming her cub, with cars passing behind
Foxes generally seem to live longer in the wild than in urban environments. One reason for this is believed to be mortality due to traffic accidents in urban areas.
Matt explains why it’s important to capture an animal in its environment
Red fox vixen grooming her cub, dusk
Grooming is an important social component in a fox society. It appears that the more a fox cub is groomed by its parents, the more likely it is to remain in the family group once it reaches maturity.
Matt explains his fascination for documenting the family life of foxes
“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. This helps to strengthen bonds and do away with mites and ticks. Entering 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 bloodthirsty killers some members of the press would like you to believe!”
Red fox cubs play fighting
Fox cubs play fight from an early age. This helps to develop muscles, co-ordination and hunting skills, and also to 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. In fact, it is estimated that about 20% of cubs die underground, many as a result of fights with litter mates.
Why do people find shots of young animals so appealing?
Matt’s theory is that “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 playfighting unaware of my presence was such a thrill. I also illustrates the vital skills they learn for survival by playfighting with one another.”
We end with a selection of Matt’s red fox stills. These include his award winning “fox meets fox” image and coverage of red fox as ratcatcher!