How the fox has adapted to city life


We were being taken home, one night, by taxi and were amazed to see an urban fox quietly trotting across Westgate in Morecambe.

The taxi driver informed us this is a common sight now, particularly on the promenade.

Roger Salmon

Roger Salmon

The red fox is one of a handful of carnivores which has adapted to living in urban centres.

There are much fewer natural prey forms for a fox in a city but there is far more available food - if it’s safe to consume. Eating rotten meat exposes foxes to a high dose of different diseases which in theory should mean the fox frequently becomes ill.

However, over time, the regular exposure to off meat and other foods has contributed to the red fox developing a more sophisticated immune system.

This enables the fox to combat a much wider variety of diseases and scientists think this adaptation might be critically important in the colonisation of urban areas.

The red fox is the only animal which is known to use the Earth’s magnetic field to hunt. It is thought to be able to sense it using a protein in its eyes called cryptochrome which is sensitive to the Earths magnetic field.

A fox catches its prey using more than pin point hearing and an accurate pounce on to its prey involves alignment to the slope of the Earth’s magnetic field. If the fox is aligned to this when it pounces its success rate increases from 18% to 70%.

The arctic fox is the best insulated animal on Earth due to its warm underfur making up 70% of its coat and furry feet soles, whereas the Fennec fox which lives deep in the Sahara Desert only starts to pant, to lose heat, when the temperature exceeds 35 degrees.

Their resting rate of breaths of 23 breaths per minute quickly rockets to an astounding 690!