A cautionary tale of Brer Fox


Received wisdom is that Curlews (like geese) gather in the evening to roost on islands, in order to be safe from predation by foxes; and that many species of wader (and ducks too) nest on islands for the same reason. The underlying assumption in both cases is that foxes can’t, or at least don’t like to, swim. Wrong! Foxes clearly can swim (as indeed can badgers), but you don’t often see them doing it.

Fox swimming © Richard Beal

So when Dave Evans and I (who both work for the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust Severn Curlew project) saw a fox swimming in broad daylight at the WWT Steart Marshes site in Somerset on 1 October, it was a first for both of us. Neither of us could remember ever seeing a fox swimming in this way; (sadly, no photographs to illustrate this sighting, but a picture of an aquatic fox taken on another occasion by Richard Beal attached). There was an equinoctial tide, very high indeed, flowing in through the breach in the former flood defence along the River Parrett, made in 2014 to create new saltmarsh; on the day this created a deep lake. Close to the breach, in an area of deep water, we observed a fox swimming quietly and calmly, ears pricked, tail streaming out behind it; the animal showed no sense of alarm or panic, and did not even head for the nearest area of dry land; it just swam on, with every appearance of calm, indeed (if this is not too anthropomorphic) of  enjoyment of the experience.

Any other observations of this kind?

Mike Smart

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