Wednesday 8 June 2016

Foxes are in the doghouse again – and everyday foxism is to blame

Tales of vulpine hooliganism are deep in our cultural DNA. But why do we still feel the need to vilify these brilliant, adaptable predators?

Friday 3 June 201615.44 BST

Another day, another story about urban foxes up to no good. Police officers in Tunbridge Wells said foxes are to blame for “destroying” brake lines on a number of cars. Poor foxes, in the doghouse once again.

Certainly, the animals, especially when they are young and developing, like to chew on objects, and may choose to hang out in the warmth under a car. Wildlife expert John Bryant has confirmed that foxes may well have gnawed through the cables in Kent. The story hasn’t tipped into complete fantasy, yet: previously reports have suggested marauding gangs of young vulpine louts were actually“addicted” to brake fluid.

This hooligan urban fox is a common character in the British media. If one animal is anthropomorphised more than any other in Britain, it is the fox – and its urban variety is often a target for a peculiar mixture of hatred, fear and myth. A fox that“trapped” a group of people in a social club in Alconbury, Cambridgeshire, in 2015 was described in news reports using colourful terms that suggested the fox was displaying behaviours outside its wild nature. “Psycho”, “vicious”, “marauding”, “aggressive”, “rampaging”, “angry” were some of the surprisingly unscientific words used. But this was by no means a one-off incident.

Occasionally it is comic. In 2013, a Kent newspaper told of the “fox horror” of a man who had a foxy intruder when he was sat on the toilet. “It was like a struggle for my life,” he said. Often, however, there are sinister undertones with no basis in reality that serve to whip up fear.

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