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Most fox 'nuisance' experienced by people in urban and suburban areas falls into three categories - digging, fouling and noise.They are also reviled for digging in rubbish bins. Other complaints include the taking of livestock, game birds, poultry and domestic pets such as rabbits and guinea pigs. People are wary that foxes spread disease and the mange that results from infestation of the skin with a certain mite can certainly be passed onto domestic dogs.

You are usually aware of a fox in your garden as you will regularly catch glimpses of it going about its business at nightfall, but there are other signs to look out for:

  • Hair - left on thorns and barbed wire where foxes pass through and under hedges. Fox hair feels smooth when rolled between finger and thumb, unlike badger hair which is coarser.
  • Droppings - pointed at the ends and twisted in appearance, containing undigested food remains
  • Footprints - four toes with claws. Toe prints are close together around a triangular pad. Badger prints have five toes ( although only four often show) and these are set almost in a straight line in front of the pad
  • Tracks - when foxes use the same route through grass and undergrowth, they will leave a clear thin track, not as heavy as badger tracks
  • Scent - a characteristic musty smell that lingers long after the fox is gone
  • Dens - a foxy smell around the entrance and often food remains.

It is suggested that local authorities should undertake fox control but controlling urban foxes is difficult, costly and ineffective because of the inward movement of foxes from other areas. In the event of any disease entering the country, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs would undertake fox control and would have additional emergency powers, including the use of methods of control that are usually illegal.

Before embarking on a control campaign, it is important to assess whether serious damage is occurring or whether the fox is just a nuisance. Preventative measures may well be the most appropriate course of action, such as housing domestic pets and poultry in fox-proof accommodation.

Much can be done to discourage foxes from using dens, by creating noise and disturbance around the den. When it is certain that the foxes have gone, the den can be filled. Take care in spring, so as not to block in cubs.

It is illegal to lay poison bait for foxes as it presents serious risk to pets and wildlife.

No gassing materials have been approved under the Control of pesticides Regulations 1986; as a result the gassing of foxes is effectively illegal too.

The use of a Live Catch Fox Trap can be a very successful way of targeting a particular animal.

Here's how to catch it:

  • Don't try to catch a fox whilst it may be suckling cubs, so no trapping between April and August - just to be safe.
  • Use a good quality, well built trap as you may catch a badger by mistake and a badger will wreck one of those cheap imported traps. The trap mechanism is better on good quality cages and if a trap goes off but doesn't catch, you will never get that fox near a trap again.
  • As you are likely to encounter public opposition, place the cage discreetly in a quiet corner away from the attention of people.
  • Pre-bait the trap with cheap poultry wings or waste meat for several days until the fox is feeding from within the cage without fear.
  • One evening, set the trip mechanism on the trap.
  • Next morning you will have your fox.

Next problem is how to deal with it:

  • There is no easy answer to this. It may be considered unlawful under animal welfare legislation to release a fox into unfamiliar surroundings, as it is likely to cause distress.
  • If you are going to trap a fox, you must ensure that you are able to call on the services of a licensed firearms person who will come and humanely dispatch the animal.


Fencing - It is possible to deter foxes using fencing, but a barrier at least 2m high is required, ideally with a 30cm overhang at the top and 30cm buried in the ground.

Repellents - only those repellents approved for use against foxes under the Control of Pesticides Regulations 1986 can be used. The use of wood preservative or disinfectant as a repellent is illegal.

The red fox is the world's most abundant wild dog.

Description:

  • Red foxes are easily distinguished by their reddish-brown coat, black ears and feet, and the white tip at the end of a bushy tail.
  • The fox is highly alert and aware of its surroundings.
  • They have acute senses of hearing, smell and sight.

Life cycle:

  • mating takes place during December, January and February (hence the squealing of fox calls heard at that time of year)
  • gestation is 52-53 days
  • litter size is 5-6 cubs
  • cubs venture out around 5 weeks (May time)
  • cubs are weaned about the same time but are dependent on the adults for another couple of months
  • probably only one or two cubs from a litter will reach adulthood
  • life span can be up to 12 years but is usually considerable less

Foxes have adapted to life in our cities and they are now well established in virtually all cities and most towns in Britain. Here we will deal with urban foxes.

Habitat:

  • Foxes thrive in an urban environment because all their basic needs are met - shelter in which to hide and raise cubs, food in abundance and ample water.
  • In addition, the urban fox has few enemies except the motor car.
  • Foxes find shelter in derelict buildings, waste land and gardens.
  • Food is found from discarded takeaways, rubbish bins, natural quarry such as rats and mice, voles, insects and earthworms as well as garden fruit, and from people who enjoy feeding foxes in their gardens.
  • Cubs are frequently raised in quiet corners of gardens, under sheds and buildings, within earths excavated in banks and even under homes.

Habits:

  • Although foxes are sociable animals, they tend to hunt alone. However, during the mating season of December, January and February pairs of foxes can work together.
  • Foxes are omnivores and will eat small mammals, birds, insects, fruit and any food discarded by humans.
  • Foxes tend to follow much the same route every night on their quest for food, so they may always pass by your hen run just in case you have forgotten to close the door.
  • If they do get into poultry or pet cages, they will kill until every bird or animal is dead, despite not needing the food. Foxes have been known to kill several hundred hens in a single night, but carry away only one or two.
  • Foxes can become very vocal during the mating season and the blood-curdling screams can be very alarming if you don't know it is the foxes mating call.

Preventing foxes entering and fouling your garden can be a big challenge.

Prevention:

  • If it is possible, you should erect secure fencing right around your property to a height of about 2m and dug into the ground by about 12 inches.
  • In most cases it is simply not possible to make a garden fox-proof and you then have to rely on less than perfect repellent devices such as Scoot and Get off my Garden.
  • One thing you may be able to do is to remove whatever it is in your garden that is attracting foxes in the first place. For instance, keep all refuse in wheelie bins or secure containers, don't leave food out for other animals, cats, hedgehogs, rabbits, dogs, birds, etc.
  • Clean up overgrown corners of your garden, foxes don't hang around where there is no daytime shelter available.

Where foxes have taken up residence under your shed or house:

  • First, don't try to get the foxes out until their cubs are independent.
  • Don't just block off a hole that you think foxes are using until you are absolutely positive that there are no foxes hiding in there.
  • When you know for sure there are no foxes under your shed/house, then securely block their access point with 2 inch square steel mesh or something of similar strength.
  • Dig it into the ground if necessary because if the fox wants to get back in there it will make every effort to do so.
  • Keep an eye out for new excavations and block them with bricks, stones and soil etc as soon as they appear. The foxes will soon get weary of trying and go elsewhere.

Fencing - It is possible to deter foxes using fencing, but a barrier at least 2m high is required, ideally with a 30cm overhang at the top and 30cm buried in the ground.

Repellents - only those repellents approved for use against foxes under the Control of Pesticides Regulations 1986 can be used. The use of wood preservative or disinfectant as a repellent is illegal.