Foxes don’t always make the best of neighbours but before you write them off as the neighbours from hell take a few minutes to understand them and maybe find some ways of discouraging them from visiting your space. What use are they?
Have you ever wondered why you see very few dead animals in the wild. It because nature's very efficient bin men the foxes clear everything up for us. Foxes eat rats and pick up scavenged food. That is usually dead animals from road kills, natural deaths and disabled orphans who have fallen from their nest or ones unable to survive in the wild.
Foxes are protected under the Wild Mammals (Protection) Act 1996. Foxes have never been listed or classified as vermin by DEFRA and as such your local authority are under no obligation to control them.
Shooting and poisoning a fox can be inhumane at worse, very costly at best, but most importantly absolutely pointless. Foxes are territorial and if you remove one from a territory another WILL take its place.
Territories range from 400km sq. in remote parts of Scotland to as little as 50 terraced gardens in London. If food supplies are abundant in towns foxes will share the wider territory with other foxes. Food supply defines their territory. Foxes have not increased in the last 10 years but their habits and most importantly our habits have changed. In fact recent surveys show there are 20 % fewer foxes in the UK than there were 20 years ago.
You may be interested to know fox number and badger numbers are similar and foxes were hunted to extinction in the 18th century. They were then imported from France and Germany to repopulate the UK by the hunts, hence the nickname used by the hunts - reynard - which is the french word for fox. Until the 1930’s there were no foxes on the Isle of Wight they were imported from the mainland UK for fox hunting and then bred.
Foxes are canids and highly intelligent. Adaptation has been the key to their survival. They have now trained us to feed them and have learnt to find easy pickings from their would be friends the humans. In the late 70’s it became common place to feed cats outside and feed garden birds.
Foxes have needs too
When we feed garden birds we must remember we will be feeding far more than just our feathered friends.
In nature, most creatures including foxes have three needs
- SAFE HOME.
Everything in between is not essential and therefore wildlife locates in areas where all three needs are met.
Feeding garden birds in your garden can have several knock-on effects. If you are feeding and attracting garden birds you are also attracting their predators. In most cases that will be birds such as sparrow hawks, magpies and crows. All of these birds will pick smaller birds off your bird table or wait in the trees and bushes to ambush them as they leave. If you have a supply of food and water I can almost guarantee you will be increasing the rat population. Most wildlife population has troughs and booms reflecting the available food supply and rats are wonderful exploiters of the human companion and they are also fast breeders. We know rat populations increase where people feed birds.
You will have squirrels if you feed birds. Don't waste your money on a squirrel proof nut feeder because they pretty much don't exist. The clever squirrel is one of the few mammals who studies his brother or sister and tries out a new strategy each time when he’s cracking a new squirrel proof feeder. You will have pigeons as they are attracted by the food and will happily wander under a nut feeder or bird feeding station and picking up scraps. And, of course, last but not least the fox who will be attracted by all this activity will pick up any leftover nuts and food on his nightly rounds.
If you have a problem with foxes you are probably doing something to encourage them.
Do not feed anything in your garden. Keep your pets and chickens secure. Foxes will kill an entire flock if they manage to get into a confined yet insecure run. The run will be just like a supermarket for a hungry fox. The clever fox will kill all the trapped birds then come and collect them over the next few days to bury and store them. It’s how the clever fox survives the winter. Foxes only come with paws and teeth, they don’t have drills or saws so surely you can outwit him and make your pet homes safe. Pick up fallen fruit from your trees and bushes as foxes eat this too. During late summer, they eat lots of fruits and it forms a major part of their diet. Do not provide foxy homes like dry spaces under your shed or decking and make sure outbuildings are secure. The fox needs a home for the family and somewhere to rest. Don’t make it your home.
Do not Feed Foxes have an important role in nature but by feeding them you are interfering with that role. If you feed them they will become dependant on you and numbers will increase. The food they eat naturally ensures their health and it is this we should be encouraging. Foxes do not overeat, any excess food will be stored. The fox may be removing food from your garden, but he is only moving it next door into lovely newly dug beds. He is unable to write a note to leave this alone so he will scent mark his stored and buried food with poo so that other foxes know not to steal it. If you have an increase in digging and scenting you are probably supplying the fox with food somewhere.
Noisy creatures Foxes are very vocal at certain times of the year. Other than catching the food they rarely use their teeth. The noise is a warning to others that this is their home. Foxes come into season once a year for between three and six days. They need to attract a mate in this time and so can be extremely loud. Unfortunately for us foxes are still mainly nocturnal so the noise is exaggerated at night and can disturb us.
Foxes breeding Foxes only breed once a year but that time varies in different areas. The season can range from January to May. During this time, a female can spend several days underground so please ensure your fox has moved on before filling any foxholes. As foxes forage for food they dig shallow holes or furrows. They are looking for worms, grubs and beetles. Their favourite being the crane fly larvae. Get Off My Garden (see below) granules can be used by squirting liberally into each furrow and recovered. Damage to your garden is caused in several ways. During cub season, the plants can be trampled by cubs tumbling and playing just like puppies. They will sometimes pull and drag the plants out of pots and have such fun. Unfortunately when they return the following night at their play time they will do the same and will not be respectful that you have spent the day clearing away the mess. They are just like puppies with a favourite toy and game. Foxes live for fourteen years in captivity but rarely make their second birthday in the wild. As you can see this make for a playful fox. The cubs will not go far from home and this can happen for up to three months before the cubs disperse usually in August and September at this time they are noisy as they look for new homes. Up to 75% of all the cubs will be killed at this time on roads.
Fox Earths and digging in your garden Vixens usually prepare several earths prior to giving birth. If she is disturbed from one she will move her cubs to another. If you are experiencing digging but have no fox in the earth yours may be one dug for an emergency. Newly dug soil is very attractive to foxes as it is “good digging” soil. Foxes are very playful and like some dogs just love digging. Foxes store food and this is how they have survived. They bury food in the ground to store it. If you use animal based fertilisers or bone meal foxes will think there is food buried in the soil and digging can increase.
Fox Mess Foxes are territorial but unlike us do not have land registry or fences to define their space. They make their territory with their scent. This is a warning to other foxes that this home is taken. They do not bury the poo for this reason. They will often mark in open ground to show this clearly. Squirting get off My Garden (see below) on or next to the fouling will usually break this habit by fooling the fox that a more dominant creature is in that territory. To prevent the fox returning remove all faeces each day and re scent until you have regained your space. You may find when you first use these artificial scents that the fouling increases but with persistence it will decrease. You are simply having your own mini turf war. The fox is trying to intimidate you with his scent so just keep playing the game and you will win. Mother nature has roles for all our wildlife please don’t interfere with her where ever possible. Mother really does know best.
Cats and Foxes We have no evidence of foxes attacking cats. Cats attack and sometimes kill other cats. The diet of a fox is mainly worms, grubs, beetles and road kill. Foxes will carry off a cat killed on the road. In all video evidence we have the cats always chase away the foxes.
Products to deter foxes from your garden
Water Scarecrow Water Scarecrows can be an effective deterrent against foxy visits. The unit is connected to a garden hose and has a motion detector fitted, as soon as the scarecrow detects motion it blasts a three second water burst scaring away the unwanted guest. This device keeps away birds, cats, dogs, foxes and many more animals.
Scoot Scoot is a non-toxic spray it has a mild ammonium smell. The product reacts when an animal scent marks by urinating or fouling onto the scoot The chemical reaction causes an “alien” scent to rise and a territorial animal will suppose another animal is threatening the territory by over scenting its own scent. It can be applied directly onto plants and is perfect for lawns.
Stay Off Stay off is similar to Scoot and is used in a similar way.
Get Off My Garden Get Off My Garden its jelly granules are non-toxic and carry a mild citronella smell it is very similar to "Renardine" but can break down in bright light and rain.
Wash Off and Get Off Wash Off and Get Off is a non-toxic citronella scented spray that neutralises scent marking and the smell of urine. It can be useful against persistent fouling and unlike most other repellents, it can be used on hard surfaces.