This keeps popping up on my dash, and every time I see it I get more and more frustrated.
First of all, it is stupid as fuck to put your bare hand in a wild animal’s mouth. I don’t care how long it’s been with you, or whether it’s “domesticated” or not. It’s stupid, and you’re asking for broken bones and stitches, and I will not feel bad for you, because you deserved it.
Second, that’s not playing. It’s appeasement behavior. It’s a submissive reaction intended to stop a more dominant animal from attacking. The squinted eyes, the “grin”, the vigorous tail wag, the way her legs are tucked against her body, the fact that her ears are pinned back against her head, the arched and curved body, and the exposure of her throat and belly are all pretty classic indications of fear.
She’s terrified. And she’s a wild animal whose behavior cannot be extrapolated from the behavior of humans or domestic dogs.
The video comes from a wildlife sanctuary, where the fox lives because she is apparently non-releasable. That’s awesome. I’m all about protecting wildlife if they can’t survive on their own. But even if a wild animal has lived among humans for decades, they’re still wild, and need to be treated as such.I’m reblogging this from myself because this stupid video is back, and it makes me crazy.
This annoyed me when I thought it was from a owner of a “domestic” fox… but the fact that it’s from a wildlife sanctuary? Ugh. They should know better. This is infuriating.
Please stop projecting behavioral signals from one species onto another. Each species (heck many times each individual) has specific behavioral cues for fear, affiliation, play, aggression, etc. Forgetting or ignoring species behavioral (and other) differences is how both humans and animals get hurt.
Please and thank you,
Your (usually) friendly neighborhood Ethologist
I wouldn’t say this fox is terrified at all. This is very typical of how foxes greet each other in the wild, usually aimed towards a parent or partner. Same is true of pet foxes greeting their owners (who take the place of the parent.) Ears back, grimacing, rolling around etc. are used in friendly greetings among family members. The tail wagging, in particular, shows that this is a friendly/excited greeting.
Here’s a video clip of a wild vixen greeting her mate (skip to 4:44): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qYlKCOCIcpw Notive how both foxes use exactly the same gestures as the fox above to greet each other!
Yes it’s submissive behavior but it is NOT the behavior of a frightened/stressed fox. A truly frightened fox would flattened itself against the ground, open it’s mouth wide and made a distinctive spitting sound. Fox behavior is not the same as dog behavior.
As someone who has worked with a fox on a daily basis and knows quite a bit about foxes, please don’t presume to speak about animals you clearly know nothing about.
A scared fox will run away, a scared fox will be hunched over or flattened to the ground, gekking, puffing their cheeks and growling. A scared fox will bite, hard. A scared fox absolutely will not be demonstrating these behaviors, a scared fox will be on their stomach snapping at you, but not before trying to get away.
A happy fox on the other hand, will do a behavior called ‘mouthing’, where they will put your hand in their mouth and often squeal. They’ll be panting happily, rolling over on their back, wagging their tail, and letting you touch their stomach and neck and ears while they continue to mouth you or paw at you. A happy fox will flatten their ears and grimace and wiggle and squeak. The fox in the video is absolutely a very happy, relaxed fox.
Do not go around telling people that this is a scared, unhappy fox, because that helps contribute to the notion that rehabilitators and other people with foxes don’t know what they’re doing or are willfully doing something terrible for their own amusement. That in turn breeds hostility towards having foxes in captivity, rescued or not, that causes people to go extreme measures with the misguided belief that an animal is dangerous, in danger, unhappy or scared. People will let captive born and bred foxes out - I know at least two people who have had their foxes let loose, one of which their fox died by being hit by a car.
Even ethologists and zoologists can be wrong. Foxes are not dogs or any other canine and thus don’t demonstrate the same behaviors. I’ve seen zoos classify white red foxes as arctic foxes and that can cause problems when species are incorrectly housed with the wrong species.
So please don’t claim to know about these animals and have people listening to you and perpetuating misinformation, which makes it harder for people who actually work with these animals to do their job.
Fox behavior discussion for y’all.
Spot the hungry fox eyeing up his next meal!
Don’t worry, the rabbit got away, but I was really pleased to get this shot! Don’t get to see foxes hunting very often.