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 Foxed!

 

March 2018

Today foxes can be seen in most of Britain’s major cities
Today foxes can be seen in most of Britain’s major cities

Remember when we were kids and had to go to the countryside to see foxes? Now it is usually easier to see a fox in a town than in the countryside and watching foxes prowling around pavements and even in back gardens is a very common sight.

To begin with, it all seemed rather sweet...wildlife sharing our lives and bringing a touch of British nature into the towns.

But no longer. Today the population of foxes in some cities is getting out of control and many people are becoming concerned. According to a recent study, the number of urban foxes has gone up by four times in the last 20 years, and there could be up to 150,000 foxes now living in towns across the UK. A study undertaken by Reading and Brighton universities has reported that while London, Bristol and Newcastle are among the towns with the highest number of urban foxes, surprisingly the sedate seaside town of Bournemouth has the highest concentration of these animals with around 23 foxes per square kilometre.

So if we see foxes roaming around our home, should we be worried?  Well the good news is that foxes are unlikely to attack people; they are far more likely to run away. There have been some reports of young children having been bitten by foxes, but this is extremely rare and the risk of injury from domestic dogs and cats is far higher.

People are also worried by the potential of contracting disease from foxes. Foxes can carry diseases, usually similar diseases to the ones found in domestic dogs, but it is very rare these problems are transmitted to humans. They could be carrying fleas and ticks, but the most common disease that could be transmitted to a human from a fox is toxocariasis. This is a problem that comes from a fox carrying roundworm and can be caught from the faeces of the infected animals. Therefore you do not want fox faeces in the garden, especially if young children are playing in the area. Making sure the children wash their hands thoroughly after being outside can help to prevent this problem.

Mange is another problem that can be caught from foxes, but again the risk is low. If you do catch fox mange, it usually results in a rash that will clear up itself after a few weeks. Fox bites of course can be a risk, especially if you corner a frightened fox, but in this country again the threat of rabies is pretty well nonexistent. Never the less it is worth seeking professional attention after a fox bite.

If you keep chickens, rabbits, hamsters or other small livestock in your garden, then foxes may well come along and try and taken them, especially if other local food has become difficult to find. Make sure they have an escape area to run to and are well penned in at night to prevent any attacks (foxes have been known to scale six foot fences).

Really the best way to prevent contact with foxes is to make sure your garden and surrounding area are not attracting these animals. Food of course is key, and if you use bags for your rubbish, then try and put them out the shortest time before collection. Make sure dustbins have well fitting lids and you can even buy special straps now to ensure the lids are secure. Any left food can attract foxes, including food under a bird feeder or fruit that has fallen from a tree.

Fox cubs will start to be born around this time of year, and the little fox cubs will start roaming around from mid April onwards. With an average litter size of around 4, fox numbers can multiply quite quickly and if they have been born in an urban environment, it is unlikely they will move into the countryside. Cubs like all young everywhere are looking for play, and can be attracted by baby and other toys left out in a garden, so again certainly at this time of year it is best to clear the lawn.

There are currently groups that are calling for foxes to be reclassified as pests but as yet this has not occurred and therefore calling your local council for help probably won’t bring much response.

However, there are lots of tips and information about urban foxes available on line and one good information booklet has been produced by the Chartered Institute of Urban Health.


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