It’s two months since I was in Bristol photographing a family of foxes, but an unfortunate event a few days ago reminded me that I still hadn’t written up this blog post from my final week in Bristol.
The fox in all these photos is Danby, named by the people who leave food out for her every night. Apparently she was originally called Danny, but an unfortunate typo in a text message stuck, and so she was rechristened. We also initially thought she was a ‘he’, but that turned out not to be true.
You can see from these photos that Danby was quite a skinny fox, even for her young age. She had lost some fur and a few small patches on her hind legs were bare and sore. Half her time was spent scratching at itches under her skin that never seemed to go away. These are all classic signs of mange.
I found out that charities exist that are happy to provide mange medication free of charge, but the treatment takes time that I didn’t have as I was leaving Bristol just a couple of days later. Fortunately another photographer (full credit to Ian Wade here) was also – completely unknown to me – spending time with these foxes, and he independently took charge and put a considerable amount of time and effort into making sure this little fox would recover.
Sadly the treatment proved unsuccessful, and Danby recently passed away. The treatment may well have given her some extra time, but ultimately it wasn’t enough to save her.
I’m aware that some people will see this as evidence that foxes don’t belong in the city and should be removed for their own sake. But this simply isn’t true. Country foxes can also suffer from mange, and the inexhaustible supply of human food waste means that many urban fox territories contain hundreds of times more food than these small mammals need. They rarely go hungry.
The question of traffic and roadkill is a valid one, and many urban foxes do lose their lives in this way. But the same can be said of their countryside counterparts, especially as rural foxes are less used to cars than city animals that know when to get out of the way.
Besides, research has shown that if an urban fox territory is abandoned (whether through death or human intervention), it doesn’t take long for another fox to move in and take control. Foxes generally do no harm to people, and even if they were a problem, forced relocation and/or culling would not be viable solutions.
I’m sure many people would have considered this young fox to be ‘vermin’ and perhaps even rejoice at her early death, but personally I grew very fond of Danby, and over a few weeks she came to trust me. When I arrived in the evening, I only had to say her name and she’d trot out to come and see me. Sometimes I’d be lying quietly on the ground, and she would come over and peer into my eyes, her face just inches from mine.
Her parents were never quite so trusting, and were far less willing to tolerate my presence. Even when Danby was happy to sit close by while I took photos, her parents would keep their distance and would rarely hang around.
It’s a shame that Danby didn’t grow to adulthood, but unfortunately that’s the nature of the natural world. Not every young animal makes it, and that will never change. All the same, I was looking forward to seeing her the next time I was in Bristol, and I was sad to learn of her death.
She was certainly a special fox to me.
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