A British ecologist explores human encroachment on the world of the fox.
Though there’s a close connection between dogs and foxes, there is also a world of difference. Dogs and humans have evolved together for 36,000 years, and the household pets are “practically symbiotic with human beings.” Foxes remain wild animals, but what was once wilderness has often become a golf course, bringing the animal into contact with humans, which often fear the fox and occasionally try to domesticate it, benefitting neither species. Brand clearly loves foxes and has devoted much of her life to studying them: “They make the world a more mysterious and interesting place.” The author casts them in a realistic perspective, as natural creatures, showing that much of what we fear about them—and some of what we find attractive—is the result of misunderstandings. “The fox is not an intruder into our world,” she writes. “We have simply laid our modern ambitions over the landscape it already knew.” So the fox may attack the bird we have caged, though wild foxes pose little threat to birds in the wild, and they occasionally bite the hand that feeds them when humans mistakenly assume that feeding them might somehow build a relationship. Brand’s philosophy comes down to live and let live; we should keep our impact and influence on the fox as light as possible, and the fox in turn will likely have negligible impact on us. “I wish to know them as individuals,” she writes, “to learn the stories of their lives as an honest biographer—and to be a mediator, hoping to keep the peace between human and fox.” Among the revelations here are that foxes typically weigh less than an average house cat, that they navigate by way of the Earth’s magnetic field, and that vixen are only fertile three days per year.
A pleasant nature book that provides everything you ever wanted to know about the fox.