Urban fox – friend or foe?


Fox (Photo credit: AndyRobertsPhotos)

Anyone who has seen an urban fox, as I have, will know that although surrounded by an urban jungle they will shy away from you the moment you get near. I have seen two foxes in Sheffield City Centre, both when it was very quiet and both times the fox just strolled past (at a distance) and dived into the first hedge they could find.

Many of you will have read of a baby’s finger being severed by a fox recently in London, and you may remember the baby sisters mauled by a fox in 2010 as they slept. This type of attack, although tragic, is a rare occurrence to say there are 33,ooo urban foxes in the UK and 10,000 in London alone. The above attacks are mentioned here.

Put this figure next to another urban nuisance; the cat. There are around 800,000 feral cats, that roam our urban districts. Cats, which are certainly more willing to approach humans, can bite and scratch as almost anyone who has been on the wrong side of one can vouch for. And when I quoted the figure 800,000, I ignored the 9 million pet cats, many of which also roam freely around our urban and suburban areas. I’m not suggesting we cull cats, just putting the so called ‘nuisance’ into perspective. Lets look at another animal found in ALL urban areas; the dog. Now, I also get annoyed at the negative media portrayal of dogs every time there is an attack. albeit rare, dogs do attack and in some cases kill, more children than foxes.

Foxes hunt rats in the cities, rats spread disease and can enter households much easier than a fox. Foxes rarely rummage through bins, especially now the majority of bins are plastic wheelie bins! Most foxes only eat scrap food when it is fed to them by people who leave it out in their garden because they want foxes to visit. In my opinion, foxes are a true representative of urban ‘nature’ whereas cats and dogs are not, yet they produce many more issues and even cause more of a nuisance to gardeners.

Boris Johnson, Mayor of London, has urged councils to tackle the increasing ‘menace’ of urban foxes however there is no hard evidence that the number of urban foxes has increased (one study found that they have decreased in some areas due to disease epidemics) and culls are known to be ineffective since new foxes just move into the newly presented territory.

As a final note on the subject, there are approximately 28,000 facial dog bites REPORTED in the UK with numerous deaths. These figures are easy to find through google. Fox attacks are harder to find, after trawling google I found 3 cases; the recent finger severing, the baby sisters in 2010 and a young boy being bitten after disturbing a fox under the garden shed, so lets not get the pitch-forks out just yet Boris. Here is the fox website for more information on urban foxes.

English: Mayor of London, Boris Johnson poses ...