Urban foxes are a common sight and sound these days, particularly during the mating season when the unnerving call of the vixen can be heard at night.
As the weather becomes colder, their scavenging may increase as food becomes scarcer. They can occasionally become guests in your garden. They are not always welcome, although some people enjoy watching them from their windows.
The council does receive complaints about foxes, especially at this time of year. However, because foxes in Britain are very unlikely to spread disease to humans or pets, they are not officially regarded as posing a direct threat to public health – and are not classified as vermin. Therefore, local authorities do not trap or destroy foxes, and Ealing Council’s pest control does not have any remit to do so.
However, foxes can sometimes cause problems and complaints are made to the council which it cannot do much about. There are often simple solutions you can take yourself.
COMPLAINT: Emptying the contents of dustbins or tearing refuse sacks. Foxes are often blamed for this because they scavenge for food at night. However, cats, rats and dogs can also be the culprits.
SOLUTION: Sacks are easily ripped open – scattering debris all over the street in the process. However, there is a simple way to help avoid this: Recycle your food waste. If people were to put all their food waste in their food waste bins, it would keep foxes, rats and other scavengers at bay. The specially designed, lockable lids of the food waste bins defeat any curious animals. If you rinse-out any cans or food packaging you use before you recycle them, this will also deter nosey animals from sniffing around your bins. For more information, visit the recycling pages of the council website.
COMPLAINT: Disturbance at night by calling and barking. Between December and February female foxes (vixens) make a screaming sound at night to show they are ready to mate.
SOLUTION: If it is coming from your garden and the noise becomes intolerable to you, you can move the foxes on by using safe, but strong-smelling repellent such as the types you can buy to deter cats.
COMPLAINT: Holes and droppings/scents in the garden. As well as barking and screaming, foxes communicate with each other using scents. They use strong smelling urine or faeces to mark their territories.
SOLUTION: Should you find a den, or ‘earth’, in your garden and you want to prevent foxes from using it, daub the entrance with a safe repellent and once you are sure it has been vacated, block the entrance with soil or rubble. If foxes are using your garden as a travel route, you can dissuade them by spreading repellent at points of access. If there are obvious breaks in fencing these should be repaired. Foxes are generally fearful of humans and usually remain hidden in shelters by day. They eat what they can find: Fruit, worms, insects and small animals like rats and mice, but are opportunists and will not turn their noses up at seeds and nuts under bird tables. If you have identified foxes in your garden and do not want them there, you can deter them by removing all likely sources of food.
In extreme circumstances, residents might want to employ the services of a private pest control company. However, this can be expensive and there is little evidence that killing or removing a fox will prevent the problem from recurring – because another fox will simply take over the vacant territory.