The Urban Fox

For years now we have slowly redeveloped, destroyed and reduced our countryside which has had a dramatic impact on our wildlife and its environment. This has resulted in many creatures seeking alternative living arrangements.

Over the years, foxes have slowly made their homes in our towns and have adapted well to living alongside us. Foxes are from the canid family and like their domestic cousins, they are happy to be man’s friend.  Their only problem is some love them, feed them and encourage them whilst other people dislike them. Foxes are naturally shy, very trusting and extremely clever. They can tell the time and know exactly where to be when food is available. In the countryside, they are predominantly nocturnal but in towns and cities they are often seen during the day - sometimes sunning themselves in gardens and on shed roofs.  

 

In order to survive in our towns, their food has changed. Foxes are the scavengers of the wild and eat all the left over's from nature. This is a very important role. In the wild, their diet would consist over 79% scavenged food with 11% wild mammals such as rabbits, rats, mice, invertebrate and of course loads of fruit. Birds account for a little under 7% of their diet. Their keen sense of smell and eyesight enables them to eat food that people leave out in their gardens directly for them or food left for cats or birds.  

Unlike man, foxes only kill to survive. If a fox manages to get into an unsecured chicken run they will kill as many as they can and will not stop until they have them all. They will, given time, remove and bury all the food they have killed. Traditionally this would be when the farmer would be waiting for their return. They are basically very lazy, storing food saves energy and it is this that enables them to survive. We all store food in our cupboards and fridge freezers. Fortunately, we don’t have to kill our food as we let someone else do it for us, foxes don’t have this luxury. If we were to look at our food chain, a lot more animals are killed and stored than we could eat in a lifetime. I have always fed foxes with all my food scraps and dog food. Foxes are very clever they know where to go to be fed. I have heard many people say “Those pesky foxes have been at my black bags again” - I am sure that if we were to set up a surveillance camera we would be greatly surprised to see it is not mainly the foxes but our own beloved family cats who most enjoy ripping at the bags. Most heavy dustbin raiders are badgers who are able to tip the entire bin. I feed foxes and find that cats are the first in line to see what has been left out, these cats are well-fed family cats and certainly not hungry. Foxes are very cautious of cats and are usually scared of them. They are a similar size but it is the three-inch coat on a fox that makes it appear larger. Foxes will, however, scavenge the carcass of a cat that has been run over  

I have observed foxes allowing cats to eat first waiting until they have finished before tucking in. I have also witnessed a fox, a hedgehog and a bird all eating out of the same bowl at the same time, so much for the legendary killer who will attack everything.  Because their food chain has altered dramatically, relying mostly on takeaways and processed left over's, their poor diet has resulted in them suffering from mange. Mange is easily treated. It is so sad to see our urban fox, mange ridden and covered with sores and less attractive than their country cousins. A lot of our foxes are killed on our roads, poisoned and often shot. Foxes are very territorial and remain within their own boundaries of up to 80 gardens and use specific runs and paths. When their cubs are born they will sometimes dig deep holes under sheds, or simply set up home in-between the boards the shed rests on. They only need a 120 mm gap to get their entire body through and give birth and rear cubs. When foxes have cubs they are far more cautious and will protect their young and if they feel threatened in their chosen birth place, they will move their cubs to a more secure location. The clever Vixen will often have several places to hand.  

Once the cubs are able to get out, the vixen will watch them play. I have sat and watched them play with balls, shoes, socks - anything that takes their fancy with my cats looking on; neither have bothered each other. Foxes will mark their new found toys with faeces in the same way they mark their territory. Dogs also do this as do most canids. I fed one female fox for over two years and she often brought her young cubs to feed. I am mindfully aware that these are wild creatures and not domesticated and at no time have I ever tried to change this, in all fairness, man has taken their habitat and they are now adapting to ours. I appreciate that not everyone likes foxes and would like to deter them from their gardens, please see below simple methods to stop foxes entering your garden.

Do not feed your cat outdoors or leave food on the ground overnight. Do not leave fallen fruit from trees on the ground. If you have decking use a sprinkler on it regularly to prevent foxes living underneath it. Keep your garden tidy and free from clutter. Keep your shed secure and make sure it is raised from the ground with no safe havens for foxes. Most foxes only need a 3-inch gap to get through or under. Do not use bone meal fertilisers. Love them or hate them they are part of our wildlife. Their role of scavenger is essential for the natural balance. We have hunted them once to extinction, now we chase them out of the countryside and persecute them in the towns. They are much maligned and used as a scapegoat for the actions of other creatures. It is a tribute to their resilience that they are still here. Let's live alongside them. If you have any concerns with foxes please contact us for advice.

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