fox on urban roof


University of Hull animal psychologist share’s insights on London foxes for Time Out

The foxes of London are becoming increasingly bold in their mannerisms as the food opportunities of the city begin to shift in the wake of lockdown – according to an article in Time Out.

Congratulations to Kelvin Hall School pupil, Ambrose Platt, 15, who wrote this follow-up article after reading about Dr Blake Morton’s research in Time Out while on work experience in the University of Hull press office.

The London magazine called on University of Hull psychologist, Dr Blake Morton – who has expertise in the behaviour and problem-solving abilities of wild carnivores – to share his insights on the foxes’ behaviour which has resulted in Londoners' increased endearment or hysteria with these four-legged creatures.

The general consensus amongst the city’s population is that foxes have become far bolder than in previous years – and Dr Morton’s research supports this. In an experiment to determine the truth in the theory, a study was launched in which simple puzzles were left out containing food in order to test whether the foxes would attempt to solve them in order to the food inside. The idea was that these tests could establish that urban foxes were becoming as bold as the population speculated.

Dr Blake Morton, a postdoctoral lecturer in animal psychology, said: “The study is still ongoing, but what we have found so far is that there seems to be a slightly higher tendency for populations in London to be a bit bolder, we’ve had more foxes in London solving these puzzles.”

a fox sleeping in tree roots
fox on urban roof

Throughout London there have been reports of foxes engaging in increasingly risky behaviour, from hiding under beds to popping into peoples’ houses carefree, much to the anger and dismay of many residents. Others, however are choosing to embrace these creatures of the night as part of the community, with one fox getting so comfortable in a gated community that the residents of the neighbourhood had to have a vote to decide to allow him to stay, resulting in a landslide victory for the pro fox camp – a testimony to society’s increasing affection for these creatures.

It is certain that the population is getting riled by the foxes due to their often disruptive nature, with their bizarre habits perplexing most. That being said, one must admire their tenacity as hardy survivors able to adapt to London’s rapidly changing landscape. Additionally, their contribution to the field of animal psychology is nothing short of impressive – in my opinion.

Formally trained in zoology and psychology, Dr Morton is an early-career lecturer specialising in animal psychology. He publishes in world-leading journals for animal behaviour and cognition, and his work garners major global media attention, including the BBC, The Guardian, TIME, and National Geographic.

Since 2018, he has been studying the behaviour and problem-solving abilities of wild carnivores, including raccoons in the United States, and foxes and badgers in the United Kingdom. The primary goal of his research is to understand what factors drive behavioural adaptability in animals, which is important for understanding the past, present, and future of species in an ever-changing world.

Read Isabelle Aron’s article Are London’s foxes getting bolder? In Time Out here.

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