THE MAYFAIR FOX
In the 1930’s a woman living on the edge of Hampstead Heath was seen leaning out her bedroom window aiming a rifle at a fox, which she shot to death. The newspapers reported the incident citing astonishment that a fox could be found on the Heath. No one seemed to question the fact that the woman, who’d borrowed her father’s rifle, opened her window and began firing indiscriminately. This was near the time that wild parrots and parakeets began to appear on the Heath as well; let’s just hope that her target practice didn’t extend to small, flying animals.
These days the Heath is teeming with foxes and parrots. I’ve seen both. It is almost disarming to see the bright colored birds flying through the trees of the Heath. What in the world are they doing there?
I was not at all surprised to hear of the Hackney fox that attacked the twin girls. Foxes have built their numbers in London since the 1940’s as London spread into the countryside and encroached upon their habitat. When we lived at Hartley’s Jam Factory in Southeast London we had two resident foxes for a time. The mother was in good health, but her kit was not. The authorities were called and the community was told to leave them alone until the mangy kit was nursed back to health. We were told not to feed them, so they foraged left over pizza and take-out food, which is normal for city foxes, especially those that can’t find the riches of a back garden.
One day they left the Jam Factory. We occasionally saw them roaming the surrounding streets and lying on grassy areas until they eventually disappeared.
I’ve seen others. They’re everywhere. They’re not small foxes like the kind my grandmother used to wear around her neck, but rather, tall and dog or wolf-like. When I see them in daylight they slink away, but at night they become bold.
On a late evening walk in a quiet street in Mayfair, I noticed what I thought was a dog with its nose to a shop window. We were both window-shopping and I looked around for its owner. But there was no leash, no owner and when it turned to look at me I saw it was a fox. I wanted to cross its path but its eyes were translucent in the dark and reflective against the shop window’s glow. It glared at me in a Stephen King way. The fox won - I crossed the street.
So don’t tempt foxes. They’re hungry. Don’t leave your ground floor doors and windows open as an invitation to starving urban foxes. Although attacks are rare, their presence is not.
I cannot tell whether this fox is a visitor to Downing Street, or lives there already.