The Fox Project is a wildlife hospital, information bureau and humane deterrence consultancy, all specializing in the Red Fox.
Pretty much going on as we are. Last year, we moved into a new wildlife hospital, which took everything up a notch. It would be nice if we could have a quiet year – time and space to settle in.
No! Last year we admitted 640 casualty foxes and THAT was a quiet year, possibly because the fox population fell slightly – a natural phenomena with self-regulating species like the fox. But we normally take in around 750 per year and I expect 2013 will be typical.
Is the new wildlife hospital making a difference to what you can do?
Yes. The Fox Project has struggled for 20 years with converted premises, spending valuable funds on annual renovations just to stand still. We’ve always prided ourselves on hygiene and efficiency but it’s so much easier when everything is new and designed for the purpose.
I suppose spring, when the cubs are born, is your busiest period?
We usually receive around 250 cubs along with all the adult foxes. Vixens are only in season for three days a year, all around the same time. Because of that concentration, half the year’s patient intake arrives in one quarter of the year! The majority are rescued by our three wildlife ambulance drivers and 40 local volunteer rescuers. Others come from RSPCA and organizations outside our area that don’t have suitable facilities.
What happens with the cubs? How do you get them back to the wild when they’ve become accustomed to humans?
Even those brought up on the bottle usually revert to wild by the time they’re twelve weeks old. Humans are useful in that they bring food and water and change the sawdust but that’s their only real purpose! But of course, we have a well-regulated program to prevent and undo bonding between cubs and humans. We must have this, or they could go back to the wild trusting people and that’s not in their best interest.
Without wanting to sound like a conspiracy theorist, some of those papers have a pro-hunting agenda and support repeal of the Hunting Act. We always do what we can try to investigate stories about foxes attacking people and no case thus far stands up to scrutiny. There’s usually a hidden agenda, like wanting the local authority to remove foxes from someone’s property – which, as foxes are not classified as ‘vermin’, councils are not legally obliged to do. Sometimes it’s an attempt to divert attention from an attack on a child by the family’s own pet and to avoid the media shame that would inevitably follow. But the most common fears are based on simple misunderstandings.
Years before we opened a wildlife hospital The Fox Project was a fox information bureau. It still is, and an important aspect of that is to make knowledge of the species readily available. Like so much in life, it’s an ongoing battle of truth and reality v. myth and prejudice.
It’s an admirable survivor, intelligent, resourceful, adaptable, humorous, good natured and beautiful – traits we might admire in the best of people. It has suffered too long from ignorance and superstition. We owe it.