- A.K.A Vulpes Vulpes, European Red Fox, Reynard, Old Timothy, Basil Brush, Resident Urban Carnivore,
- Behaviour: Solitary hunter. Intelligent and cunning. Known to produce 28 different calls to communicate with other foxes. Uses tail as a flag and signal.
- Diet: Rodents, rabbits, birds, fish, frogs, fruit and vegetables. Opportunistic feeder – garbage and pet food.
- Numbers: Approx 290,000 total UK population. 33, 000 living in urban areas. 10,000 living in London. Population largely unchanged since 1980’s.
We’ve all seen them, heard them and probably even smelt them too. To some they are an urban delight. To others they are a cursed nuisance. They are the Urban Fox and there is probably some living in or near your backyard right now.
Given the right circumstances they will poo and pee all over your garden, rip up plants, keep you awake with their eerie screams, knock over your dustbins, tear open rubbish sacks in search of discarded food and then scatter the contents down the street. Foxes can and do chase cats – but most cats can easily see them off. Foxes very occasionally attack small children but it is a rare event. The far greater risk to children comes from dangerous dogs.
Controlling Urban Foxes
- Deterrence. It is possible to deter foxes with obnoxious sprays and the like but this method is long term and requires persistence. The downside is it can also deter household pets and other wildlife.
- Culling. Specialists can remove foxes by either shooting or trapping them and then getting a vet to administer a lethal injection. This process is both expensive (about £500 per fox) and most vets refuse to put down a healthy animal. It is also a pointless exercise. Newly-vacated territory is quickly occupied by other foxes, often within days.
- Starve them out. Remove all sources of food. Do not feed them (some people actually do!) or leave food out in sacks or bins that they can open. Put all waste food into the fox-proof bins supplied by the council. If foxes cannot find food in your garden they will move on.
- Evict them. Remove all possible habitats. Cultivate or open up unused or ‘wild’ land. Close up spaces under sheds. If they cannot find a secure place to build a den they will move on.
- Actively ignore them. Do not attempt to tame foxes or make pets of them. If they realise that your back garden is a place of safety and food they will never leave…
‘Men have forgotten this truth,’ said the fox. ‘But you must not forget it. You become responsible, forever, for what you have tamed.’
Antoine de Saint-Exupery
The fox’s worst enemy is the motor car. About 50% of the fox population are killed on the roads. About 80% of fox cubs die before reaching sexual maturity and consequently never breed. Many of these cubs are killed by the family cat or dog.
Naughty Rover! Naughty Tiddles!
Try not to worry.
“There is currently no data to suggest that the numbers of foxes in areas where they have been present for decades have increased significantly at a national level,”
Dr Phil Baker, urban fox expert University of Reading
“A fox is a wolf who sends flowers.”
— from Martyn Day