For Find it Friday this week I am going to be looking at the Red Fox and a beautiful example in our collection and some from various local, and not so local Museums.
The Red Fox, Fox or Vulpes Vulpes is not an unusual sight in the UK. With a need to survive they have been driven from the countryside in to towns and cities in search of food. Statistics about this majestic animal are sad; a Fox can live to be at least 10 years of age but most wild Foxes will die at the age of 2 or 3 due to hunting and road accidents, and unfortunately they are seen to be pests. Recently they have been in the news for bad reasons, but the crimes of one should not condemn the many!
However, in the shadow of this lies the simple fact that the Fox is a beautiful and wonderful wild animal. Their bright red fur and big bushy tail sets them apart from other canines, making them intriguing and fascinating. They are omnivorous and will eat pretty much anything from vegetation, bark and plants to insects, chicken and other small prey. Although, due to human destruction and infiltration of rural areas, they are not opposed to venturing into bins and trash cans in your local area.
Male Foxes are called Reynard, Females are Vixen and reproduce via litters, having up to 11 cubs at a time.
Our Fox here at the Curatorial Services appears to be quite a young, adolescent Fox. He is quite lean and small and his fur is in excellent condition. As a Fox grows it will often rip out its own fur to line its bed to keep itself and its young extra toasty. Mange is also a huge problem for Foxes, an issue that also affects domesticated animals.
Taxidermy can be quite a touchy issue to approach, however no Museum will ever advocate the killing of any animal in order for it to be preserved. However, it hasn’t always been this way and taxidermy from the past can not always boast this origin story. Our Fox has no dates referring to its production, however, he was accepted into our collection in 2009, which I think is a good sign. Taxidermy is a complicated skill and there is little evidence of any work being done on our Fox. I am no taxidermist, but from what I can basically understand is the skin of the animal is treated and preserved and placed on a plastic or wire mould of the animal, with a lot of pinning and gluing and such along the way. I’m sure it is more complicated than that though. The only evidence of such being done is a tie inside the Fox’s mouth holding his jaw on to the mould.
At the Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences in Brussels they have a display on how the Fox is preserved this way showing you a step by step process, it is interesting to see how much work does go into treating these animals. (It is also home to the worlds largest Dinosaur hall, housing an entire heard of Iguanodon!)
If the Fox population continues to suffer as it is these may soon be our only reminder of such a beautiful animal. These samples should be used to allow children and visitors alike the chance to get up close and personal to this wild animal of the night, to see and understand what we are going to lose if things don’t change.
For did you know, if it rains and is sunny on the same day that means two Foxes are getting married. (An old English folktale, or pure fact if you ask me.)