Fox on the run

The elusive Leighton fox was among those rushing for the ocean during the hot spell, taking a late night stroll along the water’s edge after sundown on weekday evenings.

Relaxed and confident as it perambulated along, barely turning its head as it happily walked past bathers.

It looked right at home and for good reason.

The Leighton fox has been around for at least a few years now, making sporadic appearances and eluding efforts to eradicate feral animals.

And by observation, the Leighton fox is far from wild, happily approaching humans and more resembling a family dog than a notorious killer of native wildlife.

Daily swimmers Greg and Sue Leaver chanced upon the fox frolicking on the beach at sunrise whereupon it started frolicking with them and playing a vulpine version of chasey.

“It was playing with us just like a dog and was almost tame,” said Greg.

Which is perhaps why locals have nicknamed the fox, variously Sly, Basil Brush, Michael J and the Fantastic Mr Fox. I like to think of it as Samantha.

Local pizza maker Davide calls it by its Italian name Volpe, a nod to the country of his birth. He’s got right up close, as his pictures show. The terrible beauty of the Leighton Fox.

What staggers everyone is how a fox can survive in such a popular urban coastal area.

And the strong likelihood, of course, is that there’s more than one Leighton fox.

Introduced to Australia in Victoria in the late 1860s, the European red fox was first reported in WA in 1912, initially through the Kimberley and north-east land division, then the coast at Geraldton in 1925 and right throughout the south-west by the 1930s.

Long adapted to rural areas, they are now happily ensconced in some urban areas too, including Leighton Beach, which it shares with a sizeable population of rabbits.

Native birds and animals are not happy, especially skinks and geckos, all too afraid to be interviewed for this story.

Freo Council says it runs regular feral animal control, the next round scheduled to run over March and April. For foxes and rabbits, this includes warren fumigation and trapping. Trapped foxes get a humane send off, it says.

Locals will be watching closely to see if the Leighton Fox can, yet again, live up to its cunning, slippery reputation.

* Words by John McGlue.


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