In Pursuit of the Hoo Wood Dog Fox. (4 images)
Sunrise: 07.39 Sunset: 05.06
I surveyed Hoo Wood today, an annual activity, to see what has changed over the previous year. February is the best month to do it – when the vegetation has died back as far as it is going to before the new growing season starts. As part of the survey, I tracked the Hoo Wood dog fox to get an idea of his activity. It’s a hard task because he gets to every part of the wood, usually following a tortuous zigzag route up and down steep banks, through masses of tangled bramble, under logs and bushes, and over soft boggy ground. He has a dozen or so lie-ups in the wood that I know of, and there are probably more that I have not found yet. Some of the lie-ups are underground, and others aboveground under trees and bushes. I don’t think he sleeps in the same place two days in a row. Over the years, I have grown familiar with the fox’s favourite resting places and some of his routines.
Hoo Wood’s dog fox and I often find ourselves staring at each other through the darkness; he rarely bolts unless Spike gets too close. I remember one occasion when Spike caught him unawares in the beam of my head torch. The fox, mesmerised by the light, began moving towards us. When within a few feet, Spike, who was sitting patiently at my side, could no longer contain himself; he lunged forward and knocked the red dog head over heals down a bank. By the time the fox had recovered, Spike had turned tail and was hurtling toward him again. Rather than show his back-end to a rapidly approaching dog, the fox launched himself into the air and ran over Spike’s back before escaping up the hill, leaving my dog wondering how Red had disappeared in front of his eyes. Foxes have a tremendous sense of self preservation and are very quick at thinking and reacting to potentially dangerous situations.
The fox is a lazy animal, and the distance it will range depends on the amount of food available. If you regularly feed a fox, it won’t travel very far. If you kill or remove a fox because it is a nuisance, another will quickly move into the vacant territory. The marsh and Hoo Wood foxes are fortunate in there is a fast-food outlet at the northern end of their territories that they make use of. Increasingly, I am seeing foxes return home with a beef burger in their jaws. The kebab shop is just a little too far away for them, and they would need to cross a very busy main road.
These photographs are of various lie ups used by the fox in different parts of Hoo Wood. I think his favourite is under the log in the fist image, because it is well hidden in a quiet part of the wood.