Talk about going for a long walk. A male fox in the United Kingdom left his group in urban Brighton and journeyed for a month in a circuitous route — through rivers, along railroad tracks — ending up about 40 miles from where he started. All told, he walked 195 miles.
Fleet, what researchers from the University of Brighton nicknamed the fox, broke a new record for Britain, said Dawn Scott, Ph.D., a mammal ecologist at the university and head of the biology department there. Scott and her team, who are studying the behavior of about 20 urban foxes, say the mileage this male covered surprised them. “His home range is very small, just a few streets,” Scott told weather.com.
This past December, his GPS collar started relaying data that Fleet had left his home territory. “And then he started this epic long journey across the country,” Scott said.
Scott’s team surmises that another young male, likely Fleet’s son, kicked the fox out of his lead position, forcing him to seek out new territory. Video footage from autumn showed Fleet dominating the skulk (a group of foxes) in their regular feeding. Before Fleet departed, the younger male knocked him away from the food — an act that made him the more submissive of the two. Although we may never know the true cause, eventually Fleet saw fit to leave.
“Foxes disperse for lots of different reasons, usually to find a female or to find new territory. Dispersal is very risky,” Scott said. In fact, 60 percent die when they leave the group, she added. Yet Fleet survived.
Sometime after the New Year, the radio collar on Fleet stopped working, so his current whereabouts are unknown. “We don’t know whether he’ll keep going or whether anything’s happened to him,” Scott said. “He may turn back up in Brighton, or he may have walked on.”
Either way, Fleet’s movements will help scientists understand why and how foxes move around their environment, reports the BBC. Given what odds he has beaten already, here’s hoping the fox will turn up yet.
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