Urban foxes: Management

Fox sitting in a garden
© J. Bowry

Lethal fox control has been attempted in the past by local authorities in England and Wales without success. Exemplary is the case of London where shooting and trapping of foxes was carried out first by the Ministry for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (now DEFRA) and then by the London Boroughs from the 1940s to the 1970s, and in some Boroughs even into the early 1980s.

Lethal control was not effective: a dead animal leaves an empty territory and is quickly replaced by another fox regardless of the number of foxes killed. Furthermore, lethal control is expensive. The costs associated with catching and killing a fox generally far outweigh the low level of nuisance caused by foxes so that most councils have stopped lethal fox control.

Both prevention and non-lethal methods of control are more effective and cheaper, and an increasing number of council are applying them. There are a few simple measures to take to avoid problems:

  • Keep poultry and pets securely housed
  • Tidy up rubbish and bramble patches (those are used as daytime refuges)
  • Put all you rubbish in the bin, not by the side or, if this is not possible, put your rubbish out in the morning and not the night before collection
  • Use commercially available deterrents to stop foxes leaving droppings in your garden
  • Make sure there are no entrances underneath your house/sheds

Question & Answer

TopCould foxes be relocated outside the city?

A street in London with a bus and cars

Releasing foxes into the countryside is extremely poor welfare practice. There are several reasons for this. The relocated fox would have to compete for a space of its own (foxes are territorial) against the local foxes. It would be an intruder, would be chased away by other foxes and would be quite likely to die. It is also possible that simply abandoning a fox in a strange area could be considered an offence under the Animal Welfare Act 2006, although this has never been tested in a court of law.

A study in Sweden showed that relocated foxes survived on average only half as long as other foxes. Relocated animals might also spread diseases. Moreover, foxes will home over very long distances. One radio-collared vixen who was released 56 kilometres away was back home in just twelve days and, exceptional, foxes have homed up to 150 kilometres. So released foxes may quickly return to where they were caught.

If you found this answer useful, you might also like to see: are large numbers of urban foxes dumped in the countryside?

TopWhat do I do if I don't want them in my garden?

If you cannot use repellents, seek professional help: The Fox Project, the local branch of the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, your County Wildlife Trust or the Environmental Health Department of your local authority will be able to advise you.

References

  • Harris, S. & Baker, P. (2001) Urban foxes. Whittet Books, Suffolk.
  • Harris, S. (1985) Pest control in urban areas: humane control of foxes. In: Humane control of land mammals and birds (Ed D.P. Britt). University Federation for Animal Welfare, Potters Bar, Hertfordshire.
  • Marcström, V. (1968) Tagging studies on red fox (Vulpes vulpes) in Sweden. Viltrevy 5, 103-117.
  • Robertson, C.P.G. & Harris, S. (1995) The condition and survival after release of captive-reared fox cubs. Animal Welfare 4, 281-294.
  • Teagle, W.G. (1967) The fox in the London suburbs. London Naturalist 46, 44-68.