The fox is one of those charismatic species that attracts strong opinions, especially in the countryside, but as they are also increasingly, if not more, visible in urban areas, from people in towns and cities as well. Ecologist Adele Brand, the author of this enjoyable and very readable book, clearly has a great intrigue with the fox and opens up her firsthand experiences through this book, taking us on a journey around the world, from the Thar desert of India to the Bialowieza forest of Poland and the classic English countryside of the North Downs, where Brand herself lives. Foxes, it seems, can be seen in the most and least likely of places and that is partly the draw for reading this book.
The book opens important discussions as to the way we think about and live alongside wildlife in this country and across the world. Understanding and thinking about the basic ecological practices of communication suggests a different perspective as to the way we choose to see an animal such as the fox, which is intensely wound up with all sorts of cultural baggage. Thinking about the extent that foxes go to survive and the competition there is between individuals perhaps gives readers, who are not ecologists or fox experts, an insight into a species that they might previously have thought they knew fairly well. Personally, I found the section of tracking foxes particularly interesting.
Foxes are adaptable, inquisitive and intelligent which has allowed them to adapt over time and indeed to thrive in ‘new environments’ such as towns and cities. It is important that we learn to coexist in a way that works for both the foxes and the people living around them. For me, this is the real success of the book. It is not a ‘ram down your throat’ conservation message that foxes must be protected at all costs; this is a book that suggests connection and encourages exploration and education, rather than preaching a single message. At lambing time last year I remember going out on to the marshes in the dead of night and would often see newly born fox cubs out among the lambing field, with vixens strutting along the side of field edges. Where foxes pose a threat society will choose to ‘control’ them, but surely we also owe them the respect of at least understanding more about them, before we act in a certain way or think in a certain way.
The Hidden World of the Fox was published on 17th October 2019 by William Collins.
Many thanks to Alison Menzies for sending me a copy to review.