My parents’ edge of town garden does rather better for visiting wildlife than my own, hosting an impressive array of the larger and more obvious species over the years. I can even remember the day when, as a child, I called mum to the sitting room window to point out the sheep munching nonchalantly on the back lawn – a lorry had shed its load further along the hill!
More typical though were the visiting foxes, badgers and roe deer, the latter once hiding a fawn in our small orchard. The deer no longer visit and the badgers have become far less common than they once were, perhaps a consequence of the new houses going up nearby. The foxes remain ever present, however, and are often seen in daylight, just before the approaching dusk. One of the reasons for their visits must be the table scraps put out most nights. Not all of this food is eaten at a sitting but some is taken away and cached elsewhere. Foxes tend to scatter hoard, placing food items at various points around their territory to which they will return at a later time. These caches are probably found by memory, although some may be overlooked and others are found by different foxes or other scavengers.
Occasionally, the foxes can be seen to interact with some of the other garden visitors, the most common of which are the cats from neighbouring gardens. The two species seem to tolerate one another, the cats usually remaining at a deferential distance from the feeding fox, and I have yet to see the two come to blows.
Research has shown that people generally welcome urban foxes and the species has certainly adapted well to living alongside us. Urban living provides opportunities, particularly in terms of access to food, and it can support fox populations at much higher densities than seen in other habitats. It is not without its problems, however, the high densities of individuals often aiding the spread of disease. Sarcoptic mange, which is caused by a burrowing mite, can reach epidemic levels and lead to the loss of fox populations locally. Despite this, urban fox populations are doing well and they continue to delight many householders, my parents included.