I’ve had a couple of complaints about foxes recently, perhaps brought on by increased activity caused by a clement spring and new cubs. It’s a tricky issue, because the council is very limited in the action it can take. Indeed, no London council offers a control service for foxes.
The city dwellers’ view of foxes
There are two distinct opinions on this. The first is that foxes are lovely animals and our neighbours in the urban environment. The second that they are vermin and if hunting could be re-introduced to Wandsworth it would be a good thing. While I recognise a fox can be an attractive animal, I also know they can be a vermin. Alongside the disturbance from rooting through our rubbish and their excessively loud mating they carry various pests and parasites, including toxocara canis.
Personally, I have never spoken to anyone who likes urban foxes, but do know of one case where a resident tried to start a campaign so save some foxes the council planned to kill. The result was that the council received lots of phone call and emails demanding that we carry on and get rid of them.
The problem with control
One of the problems with ‘controlling’ foxes is that it’s virtually impossible to do. Even if we were to eradicate the foxes from an area the neighbouring foxes will expand their territory to fill the gap, often within 24 hours. And the council has very few options, most forms of control are illegal.
Trapping is not possible, largely because of the risk to domestic animals. Live trapping, which would at least do no lasting harm to an unfortunate domestic animal is ineffective because the other foxes in the group rapidly become trap shy.
Poisons and repellants again carry a risk to domestic animals and are, in any case, very strictly controlled by law
Shooting is one of the few effective options available, but can only be used in very limited circumstances. We could not, for example, undertake a shooting operation in an area that might be used by the public. Effectively this limits shooting to contained council properties that form part of a foxes run – meaning that most foxes need have no fear of the marksman.
In any event, given the foxes ability to quickly repopulate an area the council only undertakes control where there is a risk posed by them (most especially schools).
The inhumanity of control
It is worth pointing out (though I know many will not be bothered) that there is no humane method of controlling a fox population. Every method of control will result in the fox’s death, and if the fox has a litter, then the cubs will also need to be tracked and killed. Relocation is not an option, since foxes are territorial and a relocated fox will be attacked and either kill or – more likely – be killed by the resident foxes. The RSPCA consider relocation so cruel they will prosecute anyone found doing it.
What can be done?
Given the limits on action the council can take, by far the most effective control is to limit their food.
For most people this means being careful about what food is thrown out. In my area, for example, foxes seem very partial to eggs and will rip open refuse sacks to get to them, but (and this is purely my own anecdotal experience) crushing and rinsing the egg-shells seems to have entirely stopped this. Where possible, you should put out your food waste as close to the collection as possible.
For some this means not deliberately leaving food out for foxes. There are a number of residents who actively encourage their local fox populations by leaving out food for them.
The council has produced a fact-sheet with other advice which can be found (along with other information and links about foxes) within the Environmental Services section of the council website.
I’d be interested in your thoughts. Am I a cruel and callous person for disappassionately writing about the slaughter of foxes? Or do you think the council should be employing more marksmen to deal with a pest-carrying vermin?
Having had my cat attacked the other day by a fox I am with you entirely on this, the foxes used to be fine, never caused problems for us but recently they have changed their behaviour and have started to rip holes in our poly tunnel and also have started digging things up in the garden. They cause numerous problems and have cost us hundreds of pounds to have our cat put right by a vet because of the damage the fox did to it.
We live in a suburban area, with trees,very nice country ,but we have two dens of foxes, one right next to our fence, she ahd a litter of fou, she climbs the treesto get onour house and training the litter to do the same. also they like the deck we have playing all around it, but the smell of urine and food it terrable, we would like to get rid of them, would blood meal help or do you have another idea, we would love to hear it Thanks BettyNix2o@aol.com
we have foxes with cubs, they come every evening. There is no smell, they play on our deck and lawn, occasionally they dig – but a small price to pay, they are fantastic to watch. Killing because of a little damage is ridiculous – humans have destroyed much of their natural habitat
Well I love foxes but they do a lot of damage and carry fleas and other nasty bugs, not to mention the possible spread of rabies that could snowball at an alarming rate. As much as I like them I think their numbers should be controlled and a natural balance maintained.
On the plus side they keep down the rat population !!
I love foxes and I feed one outside my front door. He comes every night and then trots off. My neighbors, however, have a family of 6 including parents, in their garden and are talking about shooting them! They run off when anyone goes outside and eventually will disperse- we have taken over most of their habitat so where are they supposed to go. I am horrified at the thought of slaughtering cubs – it is horrendous. Obviously I know not many people feel as I do though.
So do I, they are beautiful animals. I agree we have taken over/ destroyed much of their habitat
I have a family of foxes frequenting my garden they damage plants that I’ve waited all year to see bloom and generally trample my garden. I’ve read that very little can be done legally to control but really there seems to be a population explosion and I would certainly support some sort of control
you would kill because of a little damage to plants ? appalling
Exactly my own experience. I’m restoring my lawn at the moment and they even dig that up. I left a bag of compost out one evening and they dragged it across the lawn and bit it open. And spread compost about. My garden is my haven from a stressful life. Or was. Chicken wire threaded through bamboo poles seems to work for protecting new plants though.
There is a den in the garden behind mine, we see the foxes day and night , they have dug up the garden, plant pots, chew garden furniture and now, at 5am whilst taking my tiny chihuahua puppy out for a pee, has gone for her, despite my yorkie barking and me running at it, it didn’t care until I was literally 3 feet away from it before it jumped the wall, but still sat there watching her. Thankfully I was fast enough and grabbed her but i desperately need them gone, I now feel I can’t give my dogs any freedom to go in the garden without a harness and lead. What can I do? I’ve tried bear pee that u can get on Amazon, water jets don’t work, I leave zero food out 🤷♀️
I have several foxes which come every night, they do a little damage, it is a small price to pay, they are beautiful animals