Forest Hill's Foxes


#21

Only if foxes become proficient with firearms or learn to train dogs to hunt us down in our own homes.

Predation is not the same as control. A case can be made for the latter, but humans indulging in the former is not something I could support.


#22

The fox is only fulfilling its natural instincts to hunt and feed itself. The onus here is on the farmer to build more secure enclosures for his chickens so that foxes cannot get in, not on huntsmen to kill them needlessly.


#23

If we’re to avoid being morally relativistic here, then the human hunter ought to break into the foxes den and bite the heads off 30 foxes in a killing frenzy, as per the foxes style. No?


#24

No, because as humans we have a moral compass and animals do not.


#25

My moral compass tells me that if fox numbers are controlled, there will be less brutal predation overall.


#26

Like I said, control versus predation, by humans, are not one and the same, and the case for the first does not excuse the second. My case here is semantic as well as moralistic.


#27

An informative extract from “Foxes Unearthed: A Story of Love and Loathing in Modern Britain” by Lucy Jones (and a cracking very balanced read)

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" Where foxes get a particularly bad reputation is not over lambs but chickens. Birds make up a part of the fox’s diet and lots of smaller, free-range holdings can be vulnerable to fox predation. It must be traumatic to walk out in the morning to collect your eggs and be met with Parsley and Blossom with their heads ripped off, especially for the growing number of people keeping chickens as part of a sustainable lifestyle, often in urban areas. No wonder that people who’ve had their chickens - or a pet, which happens rarely - taken by a fox may often feel less inclined to support the fox.

The image that doesn’t help the fox’s cause is that, if it gets into a henhouse, it may end up killing a number of chickens and leaving their bloody, ripped-apart corpses in the coop, leading to the assumption that the fox has gone on some kind of psychotic Patrick Bateman-esque murdering spree - that it kills for fun.

There are two reasons for what it’s doing. The first is called surplus killing, a behaviour that is common in above 200 of the species in the order Carnivora. It happens in the wild when a predator is faced with abnormal behaviour in its prey, such as birds nesting in the wrong place. It’s a little like when we’re met with a box of chocolates: even if our bodies don’t need the sugar or calories, we may indulge in more than a couple.

The second is the fox’s tendency to cache any surplus food. It is a great hoarder and will bury all kinds of food, from rodents to birds to frogs and rabbits, to eat at a later date by itself or to feed its family. The fox isn’t fussy about best-before dates or a bit of soil and sometimes the food will sit in a cache for several days.

So when a fox kills more than one chicken in a coop, it usually returns with intent on burying the rest of the food, which it will keep doing until all the birds are taken away. Farmers will set up a gun near the coop to kill the fox, because they know that the fox will be back to collect another bird for its cache.

Although we can never know what a fox feels, ‘fun’, as we perceive it, is an inappropriate assumption. ‘For pleasure, an animal will obviously kill because of positive feedback of having successfully got food and being able to eat’, said Dr Dawn Scott of the University of Brighton. ’ Foxes will kill more than they can eat at that period of time because they cache. Because they are opportunistic, if there is a chance to take more, and kill multiple times, take those animals and go and cache them to store for other periods. In the same way we fill up our larder, they fill up theirs’.

The chicken coop itself is an artificial environment. ‘That scenario would never happen in the wild’, said Dawn. ‘Humans have put it into an artificial scenario where that animal is exposed to multiple stimulus and the predatory responses are going to kick in’. Roger Burrows makes an apt comparison: why don’t we question why a lion kills a zebra, which he cannot possibly eat completely, when a small antelope would do? The fox, the lion, all other predators, kill and eat when they can, It’s up to humans to take measures to control their livestock.

While Richard Bowler has sympathy for people who have lost chickens to a fox, the blame lies, he said, with the human: ‘You’re an intelligent human being; you can build something that’s going to protect your animals. They (the foxes) shouldn’t be in there anyway because we should look after our chickens better than that’.

Harper Asprey Wildlife Rescue said ’ we often have rescue ducklings, and we are well able to protect them from foxes; we never loose them’. ‘So any claim from farmers that it is impossible to make a cage that those fierce foxes cannot break into, and livestock cannot be protected from predation, must be taken with a pinch of salt’.

At Village Farm, with so many foxes around, Rebecca takes special precautions to look after her chickens, with an electric enclosure. Recently, the batteries stopped working and she lost the chickens to a fox. Initially she griped and moaned but her fellow farmer reminded her ‘_You _gave your chickens to the fox’.

She put the clash between foxes and some farmers thus: ‘People like control. There’s a lot of control in people’s lives. Farming is: obliterate everything else bar the stuff you want. Its totalitarian. Look at it and step back: foxes really are our biggest and last predator in this country. We’ve knocked out the lynx, wolves, sea eagles. Foxes and badgers are the last bastion. People like control over things. People hate having foxes poo in their garden and think they’re scum for doing that. They think, I must have control over my empire, my space’.

It is foolish to judge a fox as we would a human. It is a wild animal and attributing intention or traits such as malice, revenge or psychopathy to it is a nonsense."


#28

I doubt it. Fox hunters will carry on their “sport” regardless of the control of fox numbers. And regardless of any law.


#29

[quote not from Rebecca but her linked article]

I’m not convinced people think about this in “empire” terms.

They simply think “I do not want my children and pets to be infected by the multiple parasites spread by fox poo. I do not want the smell, the mess or the danger of fox poo in my garden”

There’s nothing imperialistic or controlling about about these straightforward wishes.


#30

Many people also object to cat poo in their gardens, which also carries disease, including one which can be extremely dangerous to unborn babies. I trust you give their concerns equivalence to concerns about fox poo.


#31

Yes it is called toxoplasmosis. Pregnant women and people with compromised immune systems should therefore not clean out cat litter trays or handle cat poo.

The parasite in fox poo is called toxocariasis ( a roundworm). The worms produce eggs which are then released in the faeces of infected animals and contaminate soil. You are more likely to catch toxocariasis from cat or dog faeces than fox. In extreme cases it can lead to blindness which is why in recent years dog owners have been encouraged to use poop-a-scoops.


#32

Fair enough but in my opinion not strong enough to warrant hatred of foxes or hiring of pest control to shoot them.


#33

@RachaelDunlop, @Rebecca_Headd - whereas cats generally bury their poo, foxes do it anywhere they fancy, and there are multiple serious parasites carried by foxes including the ones you’ve mentioned, plus this, notably:

In addition to the above - sarcoptic mange can be spread from foxes to dogs, too - an agonising way for them to die.

The difference between pets and foxes is that pets health is kept in good shape by their owners, and owners will also generally ensure that poo is picked up (in the case of dogs - for cats this usually isn’t necessary). Foxes have a larger roaming range, and scavenge bins and rotting carcasses.

Foxes are not equivalent to pets at all.


#34

I would still rather live alongside a few wild foxes than an increased number of rats - which undoubtedly would be the case if fox numbers in our area declined. I can put up with both the screaming vixens and occasional fox poo, but I really cant stand rats!

It is probably James Herbert’s fault…!


#35

I didn’t say they were. It’s your black-and-white view of this argument that means I’m stepping away now because you keep making reductive statements and there ain’t no sense in trying to nail that particular jelly to the wall.

Carry on…


#36

I answered your comparison between fox and cats. Sorry if my later statement came across as reductive but bear in mind it wasn’t particularly aimed at you.


#37

Weirdly, we never see foxes up here. Loads in our garden back in London though.


#38

I grew up in the countryside and believe I only saw a single fox during those twenty odd years… Moving to London was certainly full of surprises!


#39

No you didn’t because I never said foxes were equivalent to pets. I said I believed there is an equivalence about health concerns with both fox and cat faeces. I stand by that statement. Cats bury their faeces very shallowly. I am constantly kicking up my cat’s poo in the garden where she thinks it’s well buried but it isn’t. Cats also like to defecate in kids’ sand pits, which is a real problem. And with the best will in the world, it’s impossible to keep a pet cat with outdoors access 100% parasite free.

It’s not a case of Pets Good, Foxes Bad. Like all things in life, there are many positions between the two that can and do hold true at different times and different circumstances.


#40

Who claimed that?