With the recent fox controversies in London I thought I’d post a short appreciation of the urban wildlife in our UK cities by discussing the fantastic diversity of animal species I have encountered while filming my latest film project in my hometown of Bristol.
In a recent BBC News interview addressing the concerns of fox attacks due to increasing population numbers in the UK capital, Chris Packham rightly defended urban wildlife’s place in our cities by stating:
“They have no choice, we put cities all over their countryside”
I completely agree with this statement, who are we to say wildlife has no place in the world’s continuously expanding urban environments?
Since this summer I have been filming some of the resident species of my home town of Bristol and have been amazed by some of the wildlife that can be found right on our doorstep.
Bristol is located in the southwest of England, just up from the mouth of the River Severn. From a map’s perspective Bristol seems to rest in its own secluded location, far away from the densely populated southeast region and the crowded network of motorways and A-roads that begin to expand north of Birmingham. Sitting at the gateway to the southernmost rural counties of Cornwall and Devon, the UK’s eighth most populated city shares a mixture of countryside and urban environments, making Bristol a rich city for both cultural and wildlife experiences.
Nesting pairs of the majestic peregrine falcon can be found right in the heart of the city centre. While busy commuters rush to work, many remain oblivious to these majestic raptors watching them from their peaceful roosts high above the street. When I began filming the peregrines I was amazed to find them nesting so close to the bustle of city life. After I’d been visiting them for a few weeks I realised that not all the public were as unaware as I had initially assumed. As I’d wait opposite one of their roosts on the centre’s banks of the River Avon, many passers-by would stop and comment on the activities of the resident peregrines, showing much interest in my own motives for filming them.
The Cotham area of Bristol has been well publicised in the media for its abundant fox populations and there are fears that the concerns of residents living near such numbers in London will soon be mirrored here in Bristol. Nevertheless, I have met many people throughout Bristol that still enjoy a chance encounter with a wild fox in their back garden. As Packham wisely states, the actions required to reduce these high numbers do not lie in expensive and controversial methods like culling or trapping, but simply in more responsible actions by the public.
Attacks on young children are shocking but also extremely rare, this sudden reminder that a fox is still a wild animal has left some people demanding council action to control fox numbers. Abundance of food sources and over-taming has caused urban foxes to become extremely successful in many cities such as London and Bristol, so it’s no surprise that their fear of humans is becoming less apparent. The problem can be tackled by simply reducing the food sources available to foxes such as more consciously addressing the feeding of urban foxes.
Many residents consider foxes a pest and although they have become quite common in Bristol I still feel something special when I spot one of these elusive canines running down the street in the early hours of the morning.
Over the past 3 months I’ve had the pleasure of frequenting a large badger sett near the outskirts of the city, in an attempt to capture some of their nocturnal activities on my Bushnell Camera Trap. After many failed attempts I was finally successful this week, capturing over 150 videos of badgers, foxes and to my surprise a barn owl! As exciting as it was to finally see the badgers in action Paul, the gentleman who rents the land, asked me not to disclose the location of this set due to fears of persecution against these mammals with the impending cull still up in the air. To me these concerns both delighted and troubled me, it is fantastic to see people actively protecting animal habitats in urban environments but it remains a mystery to me why there still remains cause to protect them.
The United Kingdom remains no exception as conservation issues arise globally with the expansion of the human population. The wolf is a prime example of a former UK species persecuted to extinction, and although this is an extreme example of present issues, maybe there remains some uncertainty towards future mistakes being made into the control of fox and badger populations?
With these uncertainties for urban species like the fox and badger I remain confident that there are still a significant number of people who still enjoy these chance encounters near their homes and in their cities. I for one have thoroughly enjoyed witnessing these marvelous species in my hometown of Bristol and hope that Concrete Jungle Adventures and my upcoming release Cityfied help to promote more urban appreciation for the natural world.
Please help protect our UK species and sign the petition to stop the badger cull here