Foxes get a bad press. They are accused of scavenging in bins, chewing car cables, eating pet rabbits, mating loudly in suburban gardens and excreting on lawns. And while the charges levelled at them may not be entirely inaccurate, my experiences over the last few months have shown me that foxes are multifaceted creatures which deserve to be treated with respect. 

For on one spring day in the depths of lockdown a fleet of furry foxcubs filled our garden. One ... two … three … FOUR fresh-faced cubs bounded down our lawn as they chased their wisened mother. I think even the most hardened fox hunter would have laid down their rifle and stared agog at this heart-wrenching scene. 

But from the outset we were aware that all was not well, with the smallest cub - the runt of the litter - suffering from a limp in one of its hind legs and a thin tail - for which we named the cub Squiggle. Over the summer, the frequent visits continued and we largely ignored, even deterred, the larger ebullient cubs, instead focusing on providing water for the weaker cub. 

Then followed a month’s hiatus after which the foxes returned in September. But all was not the same. Squiggle’s condition had worsened considerably: despite still being only a few months old, his proud chestnut fur had turned ghost-white and he hobbled with a debilitating limp. But we had always known that Squiggle’s chances were low and so we were almost more shocked when we saw the other cubs. We had taken for granted their good health previously, but now their fur was paled and thinned, and their tails shortened or reduced to a rump. Whilst before they had swaggered through the garden, now they trudged, downtrodden. 

The national statistics for foxes’ lifespans paint a grim picture: the average fox lives for just 18 months, and the majority do not even make it past their first year. These past few months have made us all in my family - even my previously unsympathetic dad - realise that if a fox has a mean face, it is because it has a mean life. 

The Autumnwatch presenter Chris Packham revealed recently that he mouth-fed his pet fox as a child, and while I would denounce this as dangerous and unhygienic, I implore you all to show our wild canine friends some kindness and patience.