Wednesday, 28 May 2014

Retracting what I said about Fox's claws!

"We don't have retractable claws - OK!
In my latest species of the month (see tab), I wrote a piece about foxes in which I stated that "Foxes are capable of retracting their claws like cats do", a fact that I have read on numerous occasions over the years, both in books and on the internet and so believed it to be true - big mistake!!

I was in the Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust's (GWCT) HQ in Fordingbridge the other day, making myself a much needed coffee, when Dr. Jonathan Reynolds (A good friend and top research scientist who, amongst many other things, has worked on Fox biology for a long time) wandered into the kitchen. "Hi Pete - enjoyed your Fox piece, but just one thing - Foxes can't actually retract their claws!"
My working title for the Trust is "Biodiversity" adviser. The word "biodiversity" is used all the time nowadays and it is basically a term used to describe the “variety of life on earth” – so not much there to advise on then!!
However, I consider myself incredibly fortunate to work for the GWCT, because we have around 60 research scientists working on a wide range of projects across the country, covering most habitat types and also the species that inhabit them, including fish, insects, birds and flora. Much of this research also concentrates on looking at the different ways we choose to manage our countryside, investigating how this in turn affects wildlife, while never shirking from the more thorny issues such as pesticide use or the impacts that predation may or may not have.

As an adviser, I find it incredibly helpful to have such a superb resource backing me up, being able to phone up our GWCT specialists and quiz them in depth on various topics. The fact that we also have our own study farm at Loddington in Leicestershire, where we trial much of our work, fine tuning it before we launch into the public domain, is another  amazing resource which also keeps us all firmly “grounded” in the reality of what is possible.

Finally, being surrounded by all of these experts also keeps me on my toes; If I'm going to talk about fox’s feet – then I need to make sure that I get my facts right!!  

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