Saturday, 12 November 2011

Urban Fox Problem?


As with all things where town-meets-country, misconception and folklore romp home while the science stuff is still putting its boots on. Foxes must be about the best example of this. Out of Town: known pests that predate on the eggs of ground nesting birds, and the newborn young of deer, that are to be shot on sight. Whereas within the confines of the city: foxes are both violent interloper and anthropomorphised pseudo-pet. On the same street some people are investing in fox-proofed dustbins while others are buying cat-food to encourage them.

Twenty years ago the sight of a suburban fox was a remarkable one, now they are a common sight even in the daytime, as far into the city as London Bridge! As a life of discarded KFC and Kebabs is easier than actually hunting in the countryside where the locals shoot on sight, we'll see even more of them in the coming years.

Not too far from me in Hackney's Victoria Park a family home was invaded and their sleeping children attacked last year. I've had one come into the house, and my friends R&E have been subjected to a campaign of shoe chewing. The raided dustbins, noise and disease-carrying poo all over the garden don't endear them either.

A couple of weekends ago I went out with Tim of Urban Fox Control to learn a little more about the ways and means of dealing with the city's ever growing fox population.

Tim explained that while it would be legal to shoot foxes from an upstairs window it would be far from practical. He favours baiting a large cage with [you've guessed it] KFC, once the fox has imprisoned itself the householder can pop a cover over the cage to minimise the foxes discomfort. Tim or one of his team will come out that day to administer a .17 sleeping pill.

As we pulled back the cover the fox was sitting defiantly in the cage and didn't seem distressed to be so close to us, as Tim had prepared the rifle the time between pulling back the cover and the fox's demise was only about 30 seconds.

Knowing that fox shooters in the countryside usually use a bullet whose calibre begins with a .2 [eg .222/.22-250/.243] I asked Tim why he was using such a small bullet. Tim explained that the smaller bullet travels exceptionally fast but is also exceptionally fragile - leading to it disintegrating on impact with the foxes skull, this was borne out when he showed me that there was no damage to the wooden decking where the cage had been standing, this disintegration also means there is no danger of a ricochet leaving the garden or doing collateral damage to one of the family's gnomes.

I'm hoping to start keeping chickens next year but the garden is bisected by fox trails so I'm guessing this wont be my last experience of suburban fox control

More soon
Your pal
SBW

You can contact Urban Fox Control here

19 comments:

Rick Kratzke said...

It is a shame that it had to be dispatched bu I completely understand by what you wrote that it was needed.
Like you said the more we takke over an area the more chances we are going to come in contact with these animals.
It really is for our own safety that situations like this have to be done.
Let me ask one question though, Is it not possible for them to just relocate the animal?

The Suburban Bushwacker said...

Rick

My understanding is two part
1. many animals are so territorial that they suffer great distress when moved to a new habitat, where they stand a very good chance of being killed by the new habitats current occupier. So the .17 sleeping pill is the kinder option.
2. As foxes are legally classified as a pest species, it illegal to release them. The same would be true for squirrels. Interestingly a charity called the RSPCA who like to position themselves as the UK's 'animal police' have been shown on TV releasing pests. One rule for the public and another for the 'special' people

SBW

Perkunas said...

I see it bit differentially, i think, the garbage people throw every, in tempting to animals, so they eventually start to discover inside towns,fro food. The main problem,how ever, across the so called civilized world,, is that men are grown to hate animals, and doesnt know how to live among animals as one. Plus...why the hell, theres so much men, were are living longer and breeding more than we should and the more theres human beings, the more space we "need", forcing the animals to live tinier spots day after day. Reducing men, would solve lots of problems :)

The Suburban Bushwacker said...

Perkunas

Now we're at the nub of the matter. There are now twice as many people on earth as there were in the early 60's. The easiest way to solve our environmental problems would simply be to stop breeding and to allow epidemics like bird flu to re balance things. Unfashionable I know, but......
SBW

PS One interesting thought about our urban fox population is they are quite possibly keeping the rat population down. New York City is completely over run with them lots of times I heard 'you're never more than six feet from a rat' and from what i saw that was plausible. London has just as much wasted food lying about.

hodgeman said...

I love foxes... I worked at an installation at the far Aleutians that encouraged a ragtag band of blue foxes (planted by Russian fur farmers in the 1700s) in the belief that they ate the eggs of the numerous migratory birds, reducing the number of aircraft/bird collisions. Don't know about that as we still had a bunch of birds.

I love seeing foxes in every spot, in the yard, in the woods, on the trapline, rifle sight... not a pest here but a valuable fur bearer and very common.

The Suburban Bushwacker said...

Hodge

I've come to love them a lot less since I've been living in such close proximity to them. Once in Italy I saw a silver fox they are extremely rare and very beautiful. The london fox is a mangy creature in comparison, that's the KFC diet for you!!
SBW

Boomer said...

Get the chickens ASAP they are fantastic, would suggest warren hybrids for starters as cheap enough to replace if Mr Fox makes his way through your defences and they really are an egg a day birds.
Foxes are a nightmare and do get increasingly bold when there are chickens around, make sure your girls are locked up at night! Can't trap or shoot them fast enough round here.

Once you have chickens, if your gardens less than half a acre or so you should be able to enter it as a theme garden at the RHS Chelsea show next year - the theme being the Somme!

Regards

Boomer

The Suburban Bushwacker said...

Boomer
Its a lot less than that! It's the Ex Mrs SBW's yard and The Littlest Bushwacker (aged 6) is going to be in charge of the flock!

SBW

michael said...

The fox is acting as a dustbin. Foxes also self regulate and will not over populate any area. They don't breed like some lower forms of life and have as many kids as they can. The lady who feeds the foxes is being silly

Bambibasher said...

The only problem with releasing them is where and on whose land?
If you release a fox in the country where there are limiited bins he goes straight to the nearest farm and is shot or savaged by the farm dog or local foxes. If you release him in another part of town or another town you are merely moving the problem.
Culling them is a sensible option, they arent cuddly and carry diseases. Now when I was a child the local council used to have fox drives with land owners cooperation and foxes were shot twice a year. That ended in the 1970's and with the rise of the disney generation we have anthropomorphised these wild animals into cute Mel Gibson accented speaking cuddly toys.
The evidence speaks otherwise.
As a chicken farmer (Small scale) I shoot plenty of rural foxes attempting to take my hens and I do lose a few each year. Foxes dont just kill for food they kill everything in a coop and then maybe take one carcasse.
Its hardly sustainable is it?
Now with mangy disease ridden foxes taking residence in urban environments close to their main food source the take away the problem has grown out of all proporrtion.
If you think all of gods creatures have a right to live then ask the Scottish Govt demands high cull targets on private estates and uses helicopters to cull them if the figures arent met!
Whats good enough for the Govt yet the local council wont deal with the problem?
Foxes in a rural environment are sustainable, whats not sustainable is the attitude of the throw away elements of our urban society who look down their noses at rural life red in tooth and claw, autumn watch isnt real!

LSP said...

Chase that Fox - on horseback with dogs!

Well, you can't do that in the city; I was half surprised to see several mangy creatures in Aldgate East - right by Brick Lane (go figure) - the last time 'round. Interesting rat point; no shortage of them either...

Trap away.

Boomer said...

SBW

Don't worry about space, before moving to our rural hide away we kept a small rock in half the garden of a 2 up 2 down terrace in a very upmarket village in Cheshire, surprisingly (to me) the neighbours loved them and were most upset when they were relocated during the house sale (upset was probably due to the loss of all those free eggs).

Chickens are great for kids, the little Boomer is 3 and collects eggs daily, as well as being happy and able to feed, water and muck out 'her girls' with only a little help, she does love her chucks.

Bambibasher - haven't heard so much sense online on the subject of the fox problem for a while, the growing Disneyfication of nature and the increasing tendency/self-delusion for many to forget their meat was living and breathing does worry me.

Regards

Boomer

The Suburban Bushwacker said...

BB

Eloquent; What's she been putting on your weetabix?

SBW

The Suburban Bushwacker said...

LSP

Looking at the fox opportunities I've got, sadly due to the KFC diet their more mange-bearing than fur-bearing.
SBW

The Suburban Bushwacker said...

Boomer

That's the vision I have, The Littlest Bushwacker getting all Barbara Goode: red cheeked, proud of her agrarian skills, and what's more not watching Hanna Montana.

SBW

Pablo said...

A little out of kilter with this one methinks folks. Foxes may be pests but they are not legally defined as such nor are they legally classed as vermin. Grey squirrels cannot be released under the wildlife and countryside act but there's no such law for foxes. You shouldn't release or relocate foxes as you may be done under abandonment of animals or animal cruelty (you must have a license). My studies of urban foxes on Hamstead Heath shows they have moveable territories and saturation levels. If you kill one another will just walk right into the territory. If you kill a vixen on heat, another vixen will come into heat. They carry mange and scabies but humans only catch it if you touch one. Pretty difficult to get close enough to hug a fox unless you've done one of my courses :) They have always been there in numbers for quite a time but they are just becoming more visible as they get used to us. They will come into homes because of warmth, smell and availability of food. Their faeces are visible. Just clean it up. Use a scent deterrent (cheap) not audio (expensive). We found that one in five people in the street were feeding them. That (and KFC) is the fox problem! Learn to live with them. It's cheaper than calling out a shooter every few days. Just my tuppence.

The Suburban Bushwacker said...

Pablo

excellent I knew someone would disagree - and I'm delighted that t's someone eloquent and well informed rather than a fox-feeder.

Hampstead Heath is my old stomping ground and yes there have always been a fair few, so I would imagine its getting pretty crowded by now!
If you go up there again give me a ring - I dont live that far away.
SBW

Pablo said...

Interestingly, according to my sources, it was at Hamstead Heath where the first ever British urban fox was spotted between the wars. There a fair few about it's gotta be said. But trapping and shooting won't even make a dent unless you mobilise the residents (a frightening thought!)

As it happens my article called "Living with the Urban Fox" will be published in Bushcraft and Survival Mag during the first week of January 2012 available from all good newsagents!

The Suburban Bushwacker said...

Pablo

Fascinating, even in the inter war years the heath would be properly encircled by suburbia - Unless there really is a 'Dick Turpin's Tunnel' for them to travel down.

What do you know about the heath's deer population?

SBW