Let’s talk about Mr Fox
Let’s talk about Mr Fox
Foxes often carry a range of parasites and diseases that can be passed on to humans and domestic pets. The risk of exposure to rabies, leptospirosis, salmonella, campylobacter, e-coli or bovine tuberculosis (TB) from direct contact with foxes cannot be discounted.
I like foxes, you the public and many wildlife organisations like to see their presence in urban areas and don’t see them as a public health concern, but rather as a welcome addition to urban wildlife.
The fox is a member of the dog family with reddish fur and a white tip to the tail. The female (vixen) is slightly smaller. In some urban areas the red fox reaches its highest densities but varies from town to town. Foxes mate during late January and early February and it is their barking and screaming that frightens urban dwellers.
Litters are born in late March and early April after a gestation period of 53 days. Average litter size is five. Weaning of cubs starts at four to five weeks but they remain with the vixen until they are three or four months old. Wild foxes have a short life span no more than a couple of years.
They eat a wide variety of foods ranging from wild game birds, rabbits, mice, voles, insects, earthworms as well as fruit from wild or garden plants. They scavenge from bird tables, compost heaps and pick up road kill by the roadside.
Both myself and my son had a conflict last summer with our local rural fox when he started digging up the grave of our family pet – Darby, our golden retriever of 13 years – following a six-month illness which resulted in his sad but inevitable passing. Like our own domestic, many of the complaints made against foxes are about nuisance rather than severe damage e.g. screaming and barking, digging in gardens, allotments and interference with dustbins and rubbish bins.
If damage is occuring it will probably be more effective to look for a means of prevention or aversion rather than using lethal methods. Five decades of scientific studies by the Universities of Bristol, Oxford, York, Aberdeen and Brighton have found there is no point killing foxes to create vacancies in territories for other foxes. The most effective methods include: proofing, habitat management, removing food supplies and humane deterrence techniques such as scent based repellents, which encourage resident foxes to relocate voluntarily and/or desist from problematic behaviours.
I have never encountered an aggressive fox by the way, and did you know that foxes do bounce on trampolines😊
Mervyn WalshBA(Hons), HDip.EnvMgt, MRSPH
Field Conservation Biologist