The Hidden Life of Foxes

Where did your journey photographing foxes begin?

As a wildlife photographer I have had the pleasure of travelling around the world in the search of shots of rare and exotic animals. Yet since one particular fox encounter, I’ve realised that you don’t need to travel far to get amazing wildlife photos.

This realisation began with a chance encounter with two foxes while out on a winter walk in my north London neighbourhood. The two were on a patch of grass, tussling on their hind legs in the fading evening light, a sight which sadly did not last long enough for me to run home and return with my cameras. That moment ended up sparking a passion that has seen me follow a family of local foxes for the past five years.

Did you manage to see those foxes again?

Yes, I have since returned to that spot hundreds of times! In fact one of those foxes I spotted on that occasion over five years ago is a vixen that I am still taking photos of today. This is particularly incredible since, on average, urban foxes only live for around 18 months. It has been amazing to get so close to wild foxes and follow their stories. I’ve been privileged to watch the same vixen raise six litters of cubs, follow the politics of their family life, witness the interactions of new cubs with their aunts and uncles, but also the harshness of life in the wild with many cubs surviving only a few weeks.

What did you learn from this close contact?

While I have always loved foxes I still had preconceptions of them which were quickly reversed. There are many complaints that people have about these divisive animals but spending time watching foxes allows you to comprehend and take joy from their actions. When they dig up lawns or rifle through bins they are simply looking for food to eat or burying food for harder times. The racket they cause at night (much like all the noise humans create during daylight when foxes are trying to sleep) is a taste of the wild that we don’t get access to in urban areas. Indeed, seeing foxes on our streets can help to spark an interest in wildlife amongst children who do not have access to the wilderness, a rare link to the wild in a country increasingly disconnected from nature.

How did you manage to keep up with this fox family?

Foxes in urban areas tend to have quite small territories, and after spending so much time with them I slowly learnt to distinguish individuals through their unique appearances and personalities. While I frequently spotted the vixen in that original spot, I soon found that she lived in a nearby allotment that I was eventually permitted to access. As well as taking photos of the family at night, I was able to use camera traps by their den to capture their intimate moments when no humans were around.

This allotment offered the foxes a relatively secluded environment where they could find food, water and shelter. Like us, foxes are just trying to survive. They have adapted remarkably well to the urban sprawl that has engulfed their natural ranges. As physically agile omnivores they are more naturally suited to adapting to an urban setting than other wild animals such as hares or deer, allowing them to thrive alongside us.

While no animal needs to prove their worth to be allowed to simply live, foxes provide a helpful service in cities, moderating rodent populations and eating discarded food. Foxes are here to stay, and just as they have learnt to live alongside us, we must learn to live alongside them and try to take pleasure from their wild presence in the urban areas that we share with them.

Thank you for choosing the League as a charity partner for Fox: Neighbour Villain Icon

We were delighted that the League partnered with us on the book. We wanted to ensure that some of its proceeds would go towards an organisation working hard to protect foxes, and to include the voice of a charity with almost a hundred years of experience of wildlife protection. Much like I hope the book will prove to be, the League is a catalyst for change in improving the lives of foxes and provides a much-needed voice for these wonderful creatures. We are also supporting the Fox Project.

Five per cent from each sale of Fox: Neighbour Villain Icon is donated to the League Against Cruel Sports. To find out more about the book, as well as Matt’s work as a photographer and advocate for foxes, visit: www.https://hemispherepublishi...

Fox: Neighbour Villain Icon was produced by Matt Maran, Neil Aldridge, Andy Parkinson and edited by Keith Wilson. Instagram: @mattmaranphoto @andyparkinsonphoto @aldridgephoto

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