THIRTEEN’s Nature Tracks the Adaptable Red Fox in
Wednesday, October 11, 2017 at 8 p.m. on PBS
This mammal can change its behavior to make a home almost anywhere
Most people assume they need to head to more remote areas, like state and national parks, to see a Red fox, but according to several experts, many individuals need to look no further than their own neighborhoods. These adaptable and intelligent canids can make their home along the cliffs of Newfoundland and the Arctic tundra. Over the last century, they have also been slowly populating urban centers. According to Wildlife Specialist Dr. David Drake of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, “There’s not a lot of urban Red fox research going on in North America…But I would be very, very surprised if there are not Red fox in most, if not, all North American cities.”
The program follows scientists in Madison and Bristol, England, tracking the movement of Red foxes into cities; follows a Red fox family raising young pups along the Newfoundland coast; accompanies a biologist to the Arctic studying the movement of Red fox heading to a new habitat; and presents rare footage and behavior of newborns inside the den chronicling their attempts to become the dominant pup. Fox Tales premieres nationwide Wednesday, October 11, 2017 at 8 p.m. (ET) on PBS (check local listings). The film will be available to stream the following day for four weeks via pbs.org/nature and PBS OTT apps.
Motion-sensitive, infrared cameras capture the never-before broadcast behavior of newborn pups and their mother in a natal den during the first weeks after birth. Animal Behaviorist Dr. Sandra Alvarez-Betancourt of the University of Bristol, who has analyzed thousands of hours of fox behavior underground, explains that as soon as Red fox pups can walk, they start fighting to establish their social hierarchy. And along the Newfoundland coast, we track a Red fox family over a six month period as they raise their young pups and teach them all the skills they’ll need to survive on their own in the wild.
Up in the Arctic tundra, an increasing number of Red foxes are expanding their reach into Arctic fox territory. Biologist Dr. James Roth of the University of Manitoba says that Red foxes are using more and more of the Arctic fox dens and have been known to kill Arctic foxes. Dr. Roth says it is another example of how these smart Red foxes can exploit a new territory and survive anywhere in the world.
And what about Red foxes becoming our new neighbors in urban centers? In the film, Dr. Drake notes that one of the surprising findings was just how compatible urban canids seem to be with people, given that many are living in backyards, under decks, etc. They can maintain a natural diet of small mammals and other available food, so they tend to be a bit heavier. Drake and his team have also been monitoring how Red foxes and coyotes are moving through Madison.
But in Bristol, the story is rather different. Rather than hunt for small mammals, about 70 to 80 percent of the Red foxes’ diet is provided by many local homeowners who do not see them as a threat. Biologist Dr. Stephen Harris of the University of Bristol attributes this attitude to the fact that, in Great Britain, Red foxes do not have rabies and there aren’t many other diseases that animals might convey. No matter where they make their home, Red foxes have proved they are one of the most widespread and adaptable mammals on the planet.
Nature is a production of THIRTEEN PRODUCTIONS LLC for WNET and PBS. For Nature, Fred Kaufman is executive producer. Fox Tales is a production of Fantastic Mrs. Fox in association with THIRTEEN Productions LLC for WNET. Susan Fleming is the film’s producer/director.
Nature pioneered a television genre that is now widely emulated in the broadcast industry. Throughout its history, Nature has brought the natural world to millions of viewers. The series has been consistently among the most-watched primetime series on public television.
Nature has won more than 700 honors from the television industry, the international wildlife film communities and environmental organizations, including 17 Emmys and three Peabodys. The series received two of wildlife film industry’s highest honors: the Christopher Parsons Outstanding Achievement Award given by the Wildscreen Festival and the Grand Teton Award given by the Jackson Hole Wildlife Film Festival. The International Wildlife Film Festival honored Nature executive producer Fred Kaufman with its Lifetime Achievement Award for Media.
PBS.org/nature is the award-winning web companion to Nature, featuring streaming episodes, filmmaker interviews, teacher’s guides and more.
Support for this Nature program was made possible in part by The Canada Media Fund and the Rogers Documentary Fund. Additional financial support for this episode is provided by the Arnhold Family in memory of Clarisse Arnhold, the Halmi Family in memory of Robert Halmi, Sr., Sue and Edgar Wachenheim III, the Kate W. Cassidy Foundation, the Lillian Goldman Charitable Trust, the Filomen M. D’Agostino Foundation, Rosalind P. Walter, Sandra Atlas Bass, Susan R. Malloy, Jennifer M. Combs, Timon J. Malloy and the Sun Hill Foundation, the Arlene and Milton D. Berkman Philanthropic Fund, by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, and by the nation’s public television stations.
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