The Hidden World of the Fox
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We've taken a deep dive into certain animals like the beaver or the coyote. Now let's turn to the Fox. This enigmatic animal has been part heart of human history for as long as fables have been around and despite efforts to domesticate them. They haven't become part of our households. Why is that Adele? L. Brand is a mammal ecologist and also has a personal relationship with Fox's as she grew up in the English countryside where the Fox's prevalent so without further ado let's jump in and get a deeper understanding of the hidden world of the Fox Adele brand. Welcome to inquiring airing minds. Thank you very much. The Fox has been a part of human civilization and culture since the time of a Sop. At least and I don't know maybe even earlier and even but it's not like we have a real domestic relationship with the Fox the way we do with other animals that sort of make sense for us to sorta include in our fairy tales and fables. So why is the Fox so interesting to us for thousands of years. Yeah it's really interesting to get the sort of historical context. MM text to that. It focuses have been living very close to people for very long time if you look at some of the archaeological data from places like Spain and Israel that they even even if they focus skeletons that put in human burial sites which indicates that people many thousands of years ago had a real interest in these animals and and awareness. They were sharing the landscape with them. Focuses in a modern context really caught human emotion human emotions in many different ways the something. which is I guess? A little bit exotic in the sense that they're a bit like a dog but not really. And there's something from the wildwood which can cause this to the middle of take a cities. They are something like a dog. And I think there's been some at least I've heard in Russia some tapped to kind of domesticate Fox's and yet you know we we don't. They're super cute but we don't keep them as pets and yes certainly debt recommend. Anybody tries to keep a wild bone Fox as a pet. I've I've rescued quite a few often. COPS over the years and Yar is having a tornado in a cage. They just a little bit crazy. Yeah they've never been we don't know she's domestic speeches on like dogs and services called lot two Beta exactly how dogs and humans I or wolves and humans I manage to sort of make that relationship. I guess. The Fox wasn't as useful as the wolf in the terms. Copy trained hunting so you have had a relationship relationship with Fox's from your childhood so how did you first encounter Fox's and why are they become so important to you. I've grown up in an area. That's had a lot of wildlife around me so from time for a young was climbing trees and running through the Mezei doing all these things children these days. Unfortunate always get to do AH folks is really stood out to me through all the animals around here they call some strong personalities and to be able to follow the lives of individual Mitchell. Fox's something that again they were sharing the last night with people have our committee landscape to me and everyone else he lives here but just looking at says there's no different way so it develops from that initial sort of enjoyment of watching them curiosity to learn more about how they how they were surviving in in my village Through also scientific basis and photographers well set up a block. And and yeah just over the years I've got many of them and being voters women different ways so usually when I think about the Fox and if when the Fox is talked about out in in stories it's a loan Fox and you know you don't really think of Fox families except you know there's maybe like a mother and some cubs jobs. So can you tell me a little bit about the social life of the Fox and I know in your book. You talk about their couple of different times in the Fox's life where it may or may not be more or less social so kind of walk us through You know maybe we could just start with you. Know Our fox's solitary remain Lee and then what kind of social lives might they have. Yeah this Lumbini belief that Fox's are solitary almost off the manner wildcats but they deliver deliver family groups. The size of those groups will depend upon factors like the stability of the area. I mean how how persecution there is so in in a situation where folks families are being hunted and they're more likely to break up and yes. I do live with family groups so typical Fox family. My area will consist list of a mated. Pair that cups of the year and some number aging adult such will help raise the cops but in addition to that sort of call unit has cautioned number folks isn't any one population that traveled around independently. The relooking formation territorial. So you have. The coke settled groups and then the mobile no matter Fox and so like wanted me through a day in the life of Fox. Let let you know I I understand you being a parent myself. I know probably what the parenting Fox's doing like maybe either one of these kinda hang on Fox's or one of the nomads like what what's with a day like well wherever they are in the world. Fox's always have certain things which they have to prioritize obviously shelter food and to some extent sent looking for mates as well so they're not locked hurdle in areas where they're not disturb. You can meet them in the hour of the day and night but they will unlike wolves which have much feast and famine. Lifestyle will go on and not need each game for some time folks to eat quite regular except are smaller stomachs so any part of their and given day they all going to be looking forward Certainly around here they will. They typically start to become active in the evening. Was I say you can't see them in the daytime as well particularly low ranking folks as to avoid the Mohtarma individuals in the group and they will travel around the territories and they will go to places that they know are good for food and that will vary throughout the year. So I don't know if there is wanted wants a typical day in the life of a Fox metlife in the winters fry different that in the summer. So you're you're probably or at least you started out being really familiar with the life of the Fox in the UK and on the show in the past we had Dan Flores who's also a sort of wildlife historian who was talking about the relationship between in coyotes in particular in the US he called? It had a book called Coyote America. And sort of you know is it. Let's let's talk talk about the role. That coach has played in American history. Is that a similar story in terms of Fox's in the UK or You know what what do you think about the role of the Fox and in the UK in particular is different from the role it plays in other countries. Yeah there is some similarity is coaches. Obviously have species would come quite controversial in the you ask some in some areas heavily persecuted of people on the really interesting resting and I sort of working to defuse human wildlife conflicts with Fox's they they have always played quite a large role in folklore folklore and is the case right the way across their range really and Japan and almost everywhere you go you will find. Fox's having a strong sort of cultural level in the UK they have come in for has been quite concerned about focus. This from some sexist society in the past farmers historically have had some doubts about them they saw in betrayed his animal attacks chickens but asquith large prejudice in the US when also trying to move forward and find ways people kirk suggest that is kind of interesting. Were you bring up talks about that too. How the code is kind of a polarizing creature in the US and yet? I don't know that the Fox Fox like we kind of at least in terms of folklore we enjoy the fact that it's cutting that you could say I mean I guess maybe there's people who yes have you. You hadn't really hate Fox's but can you tell us what maybe a little bit why the Fox has has been kind of revered as this cunning smart smart animal whereas the Coachie is considered vermin by some people with the Fox. I think his they are incredibly intelligent. Incredibly ably adoptable and very much capable of experimenting with new behavior and I think that quite a challenging at times to keep out of a golden and I guess in a way that has filtered into this reputation that accounting which isn't necessarily that fair because they're just trying to survive like else I think we've Coyo- says assists I I have detected in my travels around North America. That is an incredible level of hostility towards them. It really goes beyond Donovan. Above what might be considered proportion to the risk of post shape and some of the arguments that we have with Fox's in urban areas are similar Melissa those that you'll find with and coaches in the US and obviously the Fox's caught smaller and the risk of having a serious negative encounter Fox's vanishingly low but nonetheless I have certainly found in the UK that people who are not familiar with wildlife can be quite surprised to suddenly find folks walking across their backyards and that has provoked comments which not dissimilar to those that. Sometimes people in place like Vancouver direct tools coaches. Yeah I mean I guess there's there's I don't really worry about a Fox folks coming in and taking the baby from the backyard that worry about Yeah I think one of the key differences really as a a lot of the concern about coaches has been triggered by people feeding them. And that has encouraged coaches come close to people on that. In Times that has led to coaches Nipping Ping people out in campgrounds and the national parks whereas in the UK. I mean very different situation. Where Feeding Fox's has been something that people sort of rural or semi rural places have done for very long time and it doesn't seem to lead to dot com behavior and so in the UK? There there seems to also though be this history of hunting foxes that I know that we have I mean people. Don't maybe I'm wrong but it doesn't I don't think that in the US. We've had this sort of hunting of coyotes that kind of like you know as as part of a kind of cultural history other than just is to get rid of them. So how is it that the UK is maintained kind of positive relationship with the Fox when you know there. Is this kind of fox hunting Tradition I think fox hunting hounds was made illegal some years ago now. There are other forms of folks persecution acution which still continue sickly. They're still short on quarter REGULA system that still continues to affect them. And are it's I wouldn't. Yeah the issue with fox hunting with hounds very often the people who do it have put out very negative stories about Fox's and orders this kind of justify this activity so that has been a problem for folks conservationists and advocates in the UK in the US. I'm certainly aware sheriff. Some rover unpleasant activities type place regarding coaches the killing contests that type place in some parts of the West. I believe that if you made a legal in California now but I still take place in other locations and this very large numbers of quote. Isn't sometimes Bob Cats as well. I'll bicycle shop for competition. which quite plot difficult thing to say? I'm not saying. Americans are less gruesome in terms of their with With our animal. But so so. Can you tell me a little bit about sort of you know how successful the Fox has been in terms of adapting to talk about the Fox's being in the US and the UK but you also mentioned that it's the world's most numerous carnivores so tell us a little bit about that. Yeah it's some. That's incredible success story really considering the direction the most mammal populations are going at the moment. This Fox's animal that has very simple needs is. We've often sort of say. The polar opposite of hawks be something like a giant panda that has very specific requirements and needs bamboo. No bamboo no panda. But because folks is at a so completely al Elsie what they eat and where they live. They can adapt to almost any environment so not only. Do they live in this little plastic woodland in southeast in the United States and Europe but also found in deserts they found in mountain areas. They found in the fall. North found south into this subtropical areas a place like Birla and yeah the they have adopted and because they they all just so fosse and willing to try new food and new opportunities. Yes I guess. That's a plug for being open to new experience. Any of us in today's episode is sponsored by Wave Wave Wave helps freelancers consultants and small business owners. Make move and manage your money bringing you closer to financial success with accounting zing invoicing payments and payroll services that are easy to use secure and free. If you're an entrepreneur you understand. The struggle and headaches bakes associated with managing your finances. I know I'm terrible at it. With waves free accounting and invoicing services the daily burden of organizing your finances will be a thing of the past so you can spend more time doing the things you love. Do you have employees. Don't worry waves payroll services has has you covered so you can pay them. On time and with these it's time to ditch spreadsheets. Shoebox is filled with receipts and the overall stress of of managing your finances. So you can start growing your business and get back to doing what matters I have used wave. I use it to make invoices to send the people so that they pay amy. It's great I've used it for years. Find out why. Millions of photographers graphic designers consultants contractors and small business. Owners are using wave to grow their business. Set Your Business up for financial success by signing up for your free account today at wave APPs dot com slash minds. That's W. A. V. E. A. P. P. S. dot com slash minds. So you've also had the opportunity to foster a number of foxes and so that gives you a kind of like insider's view onto the personalities of different friend. Fox's so can you tell us a couple of stories of sort of how you came to foster them and what that was like and you've got some great names for them so maybe tell us. Tell us some some Fox story. Yes well I approached a charity in the UK on you were looking for people to take on the cubs because people in the UK is if we're August everywhere really if you find an often animal and most people are not going to walk away. The kind of transient was ripe for it. So there are charities. I've ahead which will take in wildlife. That's let us whatever reason lost its mother and try. Give it a second chance so I ended up with some of these cops. I had a pen in my back garden and I used to go in. I never die and feed them. I didn't try to tame them but nonetheless they were very very lively and one of them in particular Little Cup called chatter and she really did every time you saw Matrix Oh and she would climb up the fencing and what's becoming. She climbed by conned me on one occasion Sat on my head while I was trying to feed her quite interesting experience so yeah I bought him cat toys. And they're very keen on climbing coming triumphs and that sorta thing and peanut butter on toast as well as central any watching Fox eat. Peanut butter must be pretty cute thing. Yep and so what happens when Fox's are sort of old enough to you do you release them back into the wild D- do they come back and see you. How does that all work? I would love to have Have them released locally bashing that particular was taken back to Kent and there was a release site there. So what you do in that situation that you saw release them mm so you put them in a pen for a little while to get used to the idea of general surroundings and then you'll leave Penn.. Don't door open and the Fox will be able to go the outside but the pain is still food in it so they will be able to go back and search that support for literal wall until they've adapted to being in the wild. It's and that the cops I had went actually siblings. They came from various people who pick them up all over the country markdowns theology whiter. She won Acacia Asia but they were sort of a foster family and they got. No shovel is really important when you're looking after wild often to raise them with Often so same species and that helps them develop the social skills and really helps them sort of fitting with Wider Fox society when they released. So how do we know how many Fox's is are out there. This is one of the things that I really kind of enjoyed about. Your book is that you have this whole chapter accounting. Fox's like describes the problem and then how it happens so one is through the process of figuring out how many Fox's there are in an area. Yeah it is something to talk about at some length because it's something that tends to come up in casual conversation allows people will say the folks population is exploding. When really they haven't gone out to do the actual science behind that it is really hard to count most mammals also particularly? Well if you have something that's quite visible like. Da Awesome techniques. You can use flop but something like a Fox which is a little bit more. Elusive is quite challenging. The technique which I have used is basically counting that Scott. That droppings so there's a formula which somebody has worked out for the average number of of Scottsdale folks producers per day. She go go through transact yourself era and you remove all the scots then you can come back say three weeks later and cattle the nuance and then you'll have some idea of how many Fox's using the side it is an imperfect art but that gives you it gives you some sort of cost shift to go and I guess it underscores the fact that it's kind of a dirty job it's not like you just get divorced listen count baby. Fox's which yeah I I think people think Mammal Work Israeli glamorous but in reality. Yeah you're looking at Scott so tell us a a little bit about kind of the things that are numerous carnivore. It might not be something that we need to worry about and yet I think that people not worry about sort of numbers of foxes. And we certainly don't want them to be threatened in any way. So what are the potential sort of human related activities that Do threaten if they if they do Fox populations well unfocused as a whole a team. Pretty well they're pretty widespread but there are some local areas. Where were they are showing some trouble in this one species in two states to Sierra Nevada Fox which is very rare into going extinct in South Korea so there are some local places aces were local persecution all habitat loss how quite severely affected them in England? Things that impact. Fox's obviously we have a very different landscape hair to that in most of the US much higher human density which means also is much higher wrote Oh density and bits of habitat that Aleph tend to be quite fragmented so Fox's and indeed all animals are at risk from traffic as they move around the landscape and there are some diseases that affect somebody case sculpting. It's it's not a right pleasant disease it is also present in the US. And I believe it was actually introduced deliberately back in the day by people trying to kill wolves but in the UK it is impact seems to vary on different different areas them up in Bristol. There was quite a high density Fox pleasure at one point not break of Mayan Jesse reduced it by ninety percent but in other parts of the country this is just exist at low levels. You know as as you mentioned in your book. There's probably not a good idea that if you do find a Fox and you want to you know take care of it to bring it into your house. Make that point several times and you also as I mentioned earlier this You know this this Russian program to sort of domesticate Fox's and so so tell us your thoughts on on that and and why you think it's not a good idea idea. Yeah I I understand the one level that people see the Fox's are beautiful. Animals noticed something human nature that just wants to get as close to to them as we all two dogs but they are much more interesting as wildlife and we can still get to know them when they're asked about in the countryside as far as the Russian program Miss Concerned Idea some concerns about this little ethical and welfare is a lot and deliberately breeding animals to be frankly and liberty breeding them to be careful. Careful I think Something that should perhaps raises Hugh Red Flags. But that's I think that's what I think that that Maybe some of our listeners wouldn't have realized made that connection that by you you know essentially by making them friendly you also make them more anxious. Yes well I think they would select you for behavioral traits. Some of them were selected to be more Franken was people people and they did actually start to physically change. When that's that process continued? I can develop a different coat colors for example so what's being name produced is not allowed. Fox It's something completely different and so how does that from the ethical standpoint a lot of the show we talk about how science can inform aspects of society so so I think the someone might make the argument that Oh well but we do that with dogs all the time. Why is it okay to to you? Know create a specialized dog or is it. Okay I mean you could argue that. Maybe it isn't especially dogs that you know have certain features that make it hard for them to breathe like the pug or make them more susceptible to illnesses Is that is that. Is that around the same line of the argument that you're making here or is is there something else that you'd like our listeners to consider I think as far as dogs are concerned. That's a relationship which is develop naturally over the course of tens of thousands of years and our relationship with dogs is very special. And there's a real temptation I think for many people charm replicate that with most of animals that look attractive and I sometimes question stepping back and looking at it. From the animals perspective may focus is do not need to be domesticated. So if we do that then that's something that we already day for ourselves the other I would share the concern. Wish I have. I've seen other people raise that well. That breeding breeding dogs and intake cast to in wise nor really that healthy is something which is of concern and indeed also horses and as as breaching becomes more more and more intense they. They can develop certain illnesses as well. So I think we need to figure out how through cliff humanely with the animals that we've already got before adding any new animals to the domestic list so remind our listeners. That Adele Brands Book. The hidden world of the Fox is now available at booksellers. acceler everywhere in your epilogue. You start with a sentence that I found really poignant and I wanted to ask you to expand on it for us it goes the magic of Fox's is is there a behavioral plasticity even the most mundane citing can end with a surprising twist. So what were some twists. Yeah it is amazing raising with. Fox's I've been watching them now for the twenty six years I think it is and they still find ways to surprise me and it's just often worth if wildest keyboard a little bit longer and isn't that what was going to happen to give an example of that hosts are walking Norfolk and East Anglia. Earning one occasion winner of a cold. What Day and I saw her folks walking across a posture landing rights by ponies on surfaces? Nothing about that but as watching I know says this Fox little bit confused accused by the fact that he had a magpie following him. which is she'll must? You must be won't be aware it's a large bird. Like a crow and enough a magpie enough amac pine nine eventually nine of them lined up and followed him all around. This field followed him into a stable. They followed him as he sat down by the horses and it gave me a series of somebody's hilarious photographs that I've ever taken so I've had foxe's locally those. I'm just amused people in the village. We had one couple of winters ago. Who who specialized in working for Wellington boots? which is this Imelda? Wasn't tim elder. It's one of my local Fox's melted. Took it one step further though she she she took A. I think it was over a hundred pass in the end Yeah she was a fox in Germany. Who got in the press through? She just kept on mm stealing shoes and people's front porches and take them off the woodland. They are incredibly pay for anything they can pick outlay. We'll play with I. I've actually caught one on my trail. Cameras will kill toyed Donoso they will play on trampolines. If they're available they they would just explore anything in the landscape and US give it their twist so for anyone who wants to go out and experience experienced the life of a Fox the book you have sort of Fox watchers tool kit. So can you just give some advice to our listeners of you know what's the best way to watch a Fox that will depend to some degree. About which part of the country there in the local habitat like whether it's coaches around. Ralph Fox's will tend to try and avoid them I think probably a good place to start is to actually learn tracking and field skills so get yourself a really good book on wildlife I footprints and other wildlife sign it just adds mushed yo walks outside the courthouse doors if you can read the landscape and he started to start to piece together with Fox's love for animals are doing is just so much more rewarding to understand them that way to actually see them. Yeah it's much easier. As some places is an office. Obviously yellowstone is a place where people quite often get someone fulfillment jumping into headfirst into really deep. snowpacks is somewhere like England. It's possible time to see them. Wandering around the fields hunting for voles show animals like mice but yeah just just learn then as much as you can about their lifestyle how they use them the landscape and what prey animals that likely to be focusing on or indeed pry fruit because they also each lots of cherries and blackbirds. And and probably the best start. And then if you do decide to feed them you also have some advice on what are the best dietary I would say in the US. I I would advise. Everybody notified. Fox's because the culture is very different in well certain parts of the United States and Canada. I've been with us being quieter quite a strong movement against that and I would be concerned if people do feed. Fox's it be putting them. Some risk particularly national parks is always a big no no in Britain and CEO kind of different half for whatever reason people have just fed wildlife of his birds badges of Fox's for a long time and that's generally accepted as though it's quite controversial in urban areas. So yeah some people just take. That's way too far and they put out cake and other things arena cry for. Fox's so yeah I just wanted took his advice about. Lhasa are after all carnivores so yeah they have a pretty. Yeah no I diet a lot of the food is actually earthworms and but yeah. They're not saying after tweet cakes for sure. So what do you see. He is some markers of our future relationship with the Fox. What do you hope will be sort of the Fox and human relationship future and what are some worries you might have? I think I think Fox frontiers whereas really an urban areas and what I would like is for the Fox provide a bit of a gateway doc tonight chip because we are probably the most urbanized generation that lived and a lot of people. Just don't have contact to the great outdoors very much anymore and and even in central London Central New York. They're all Fox's and to be able to see them and to be able to see something of nature or something that's wild non-human and actually just is just a connection which is easy to overlook but the Fox can be Salaam Tutu for us if we let it be. I think my concern would be that intolerance wins the day. There are people out there who just get very offended. The Idea Fox's being in the neighborhood even they said do homeless whoever and that's difficult for scientists to deal with because when an animal is actually causing damage then you can go in there and he might solution to that. But if people people just have an ideological objection to Fox's Dakota's that's much harder to harder to resolve say yes would have bound together. I Guess Adele Brian. Thank you so much for sharing your work with us on enquiring mines. Thank you very much. So that's another episode so thanks for listening and if you WANNA hear more. Don't forget to subscribe if you'd like to get an ad free version of this show. Consider supporting us at Patriotair dot com slash inquiring minds. I want want especially think David. Noel Harring Chang Shawn Johnson Jordan Miller Kyle Rahula. Michael Gow Goule Eric. Clark Yushi Lynn Clark Lindgren Joel. Stephan Stephan Meyer walled and Charles. Thanks to all of you for being such longtime supporters. I'm enquiring minds. Enquiring lenses produced by Adam Isaac. I'm your host Indre Scotus L. C. Next week sir.