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Dogged by demise of once superior fox.

Byline: Neil McIntosh

I SAW a fox the other day. I knew it was a fox because I remember them from my youth. Indeed, foxes are part of my early socialisation.

Living in the country, as I did, I remember my mum saying: "Look at the fox", as a red streak appeared and then disappeared.

I always looked but rarely saw the elusive and regal chap. (Didn't he always have a posh voice and a slightly superior attitude?) And then, of course, he began to appear in films and cartoons and was consistently intelligent, articulate, crafty and, occasionally, just occasionally, untrustworthy. But you still felt a certain respect, an appreciation of a suave and sophisticated con man.

So I know a fox when I see one. They are fundamentally different from dogs, being inherently smarter, more independent, completely ruthless and not so reliant on human approval.

They are larger than cats, being not so sophisticated, somewhat less belligerent and easier to train and they are, without question, smellier than most humans. So they are, without doubt, foxes.

But not any more. Foxes have evolved. But while most species improve over generations, they are now a shadow of their former selves.

The fox I saw was sitting in a car park. Not some out-ofthe-way country lay-by but a supermarket car park, complete with trolley station, relentless cars and endless Tarmac. Just the sort of environment foxes now revel in.

And why? I regret that the answer is simple. Where once your old fox had to rely on a farmer's chicken, a dead lamb or a sickly rabbit for its sustenance, they have now become wholly dependent on dog food and scraps left out at back doors, along with a tidal wave of edible litter that school kids and assorted others drop at their feet.

The old system may have been unpalatable to some but it worked on many levels. First and foremost, it limited the size of the fox population to what an area could sustain. And, second, it ensured that only the fittest survived.

Those foxes too weak, infirm or diseased to hunt food simply did not make it.

But that is not the case today, when whole litters of cubs are fed to adulthood by well-meaning fox lovers.

So I wasn't surprised to see the fox as I stepped from my car at the supermarket. But I was upset by his condition. He eyed me suspiciously through watery eyes from his slouched position. His coat was sparse and his skin sore and inflamed - a sure sign of the sarcoptic mange that he could pass on to domestic dogs. He was thin, far too thin to be healthy. Or happy.

Slowly, painfully, he sloped away. His forefathers would not have been impressed.

SHOW NEWS August 18 ? Old English Sheepdog Club of Scotland's Open Show, Bargeddie Community Centre, 1pm. ? Dumfries & Galloway Canine Societies Open Show, Halcrow Stadium, Gretna, 10am.
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Aug 15, 2013
Words:488
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