The European red fox (Vulpes vulpes) is one of the most commonly seen wildlife species in the  UK. When found in urban areas, they are also known colloquially as the ‘urban fox’. What many do not realise, however, is that they are the same species as the foxes seen in rural areas, just adapted to living amongst human settlements. 

As the only wild canid species currently residing in the UK, it is a privilege to see these animals in the wild. With females weighing around 5kg and males around 6kg they are similar in size to a  large cat or small dog. But their bright burnt orange colouration makes them hard to miss. A frequent visitor in many of our gardens, but are there really that many? And if so, why are there so many? 

How many?  

Population numbers of the red fox are reported to have been increasing overall in recent years; with the IUCN listing them as ‘least concern’ with an increasing population trend.

In 2013 it was estimated there were around 430,000 foxes living in the UK, estimated as 1 fox for every 150 people. The number of foxes in urban areas is reported to have increased from 33,000 in 1995 to 150,000  in 2017. However, despite this, the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) reports over a 40% decline in numbers of the species overall in the UK between 1995 and 2019.

It is without a doubt that people are reporting more frequent fox sightings in their gardens and urban areas over recent years. So why is that?


One of the main reasons fox sightings are increasing is foxes are amazing at being able to adapt to almost every environment, found in most locations across the UK. A particular draw of the urban environment is the continuous food supply. Foxes are amazing scavengers. Bins, compost heaps, and food left out in the garden for other wildlife, are all readily available in the urban environment. 

Lack of predators  

Unlike other wildlife species such as hedgehogs, small birds and rodents, foxes have no natural predators living in the wild in the UK. This means they are at very low risk of predation. As a result, their population numbers can increase easily; with young able to develop into adults with minimal risk of predation from dens. 

Lack of Disease 

The UK is free of rabies, a fatal neurological disease which can affect foxes in other countries. In addition, many of our dogs and cats are vaccinated in the UK. So other diseases such as canine distemper virus, which can also affect foxes, are not a high risk for foxes living in the UK. The net result of this relatively low disease risk for UK foxes is that again, their population numbers are not threatened by death from disease, meaning they can increase easily.  

They were here first? 

In many cases, foxes have dispersed from rural areas into more urban areas in search of food sources. However, in some cases, developments were built in areas where foxes were already residing. And instead of moving away, foxes, being the highly adaptable species they are, adapted to the new urban environment and stuck around; quite successfully using large gardens for shelter and human waste products as food sources!  


– ‘Urban foxes’ are European red foxes, the same species found all over the UK 

– Foxes are highly adaptable and found in a variety of habitats all over the UK 

– Foxes have no natural predators in the wild in the UK 

– Availability of food is a common reason foxes thrive in urban environments 

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