The video, which spread like wildfire on October 10, falls between a wildlife documentary and a reportage on the tough political life. We see Larry, the Tomcat of Downing Street, who bears the title of “Chief Government Mouse Hunter” chasing a fox outside the prime minister’s residence. It’s not about Liam Fox [“Liam Renard”, en français]the former minister for international trade, but of a red fox, as it is officially called, in this case a gray mangy fox.
Cats are much more likely to hunt foxes than the other way around, according to research by Professor Dawn Scott from Nottingham Trent University’s School of Animal, Rural and Environmental Sciences. “Cats almost always win”, she assures.
Mistakenly considered a pest
However, Vulpes vulpes remains something of a pariah in the popular imagination: children’s stories describe him as evil and cunning. He is “heavily demonized”, adds Dawn Scott, who explains why it is often considered harmful – wrongly, as it was never classified as such – and why this opinion is so deeply rooted.
The brief encounter with the feline gopil in front of Downing Street is a further reminder that the urban fox has become very visible in the capital, not just in the suburbs but also in the heart of the city.
Some argue that this “threatens”, in the words of Boris Johnson, is a kind of revenge against the townspeople for voting to ban fox hunting in the House of Commons [en 2004]. In fact, the sight of foxes frolicking without stealth at night – and even during the day – in the urban landscape is so familiar that people are convinced their population has exploded in recent years.
Stable workforce in the capital
Not true, says Terry Woods, the founder of Fox-a-Gon, a fox protection association. The London Wildlife Trust estimates the number of individuals living in the capital at 10,000, and Woods believes the number has been stable for decades. “There are only 350,000 foxes in England, he specifies and it is the peak when the little ones are born, in April. With a death rate of 60%, we could easily drop to 150,000.” According to Dawn Scott, foxes were