Don’t Feed the Foxes
On one of Bruce’s regular neighbourhood walks, a small Fox came in front of our path about 10 feet ahead of us. Bruce was preoccupied by some wondrous smell, and I waited patiently for the fox to leave before it was noticed by my high prey-drive, large terrier. Instead, something different happened. It walked a few feet closer to me, stopped, sat and looked at me.
At this point, Bruce took notice of the urban fox, and went into alert mode. I shortened his lead so Bruce was right next to me, told him ‘leave it’ in relation to the fox he was desperate to chase away, and we waited.
And waited, and waited.
Finally, the fox moved to the other side of the road. The movement excited Bruce, and despite my best efforts he started to bark at the fox to back off. At this point a passer by told me off for letting my dog bark at the fox because it ‘was only a little one’. He is the friendliest, most loving dog in the world and has no prey drive at all when it comes to anything but foxes, and this one had been steps ahead of him with no fear at all. It’s too much temptation for a dog which has been bred to hunt and has that urge inherent within him. Frankly, there was nothing I could do except keep my dog far away from Mr Fox, and keep both dog and fox safe.
I kept walking down the street, and Bruce kept barking. I knew that as soon as the fox disappeared from Bruce’s line of sight, everything would go back to normal, and it didn’t take long for the sight of the fox to vanish behind a car.
Then, something unusual happened. Bruce started barking again, and I turned my head to see the fox had crossed back to our side of the road and was following us. It had no fear of myself or my dog. Its body language was calm and relaxed and it was slowing blinking at me, like a happy cat does to an owner it loves.
It was adorable, and concerning.
Thankfully, I managed to keep Bruce under control and get home without adding a pet fox to my household. However, it’s something that I’ve been seeing more and more of in my area. Urban foxes are getting tamer and tamer, and it’s not a good thing.
A few weeks ago, I saw a woman hand feeding a fox in her front garden. A neighbour on my street leaves food and toys out for them. The result? Foxes have lost respect and fear of humans; a respect which keeps both themselves and us safe. They don’t need to fed by humans to live, they scavenge and hunt for food and do very well on the city’s resources of rubbish and rodents.
Feeding urban foxes is a bad idea, for numerous reasons.
- They will lose their territory. Foxes are naturally lazy animals and if they have a regular food source they will stay close to it and stop defending their territory as they no longer need it. When that food source dries up – perhaps because you have gone away on holiday, are visiting friends or you move house – the foxes need to hunt and scavenge but no longer have territory of their own to do it in. This means finding food in areas that aren’t theirs, and if they are caught by other foxes they’ll be in big and dangerous trouble.
- Foxes are messy. If you leave food out in your garden for foxes to enjoy in the night, don’t expect them to be neat about it. They’ll take the food off to other areas, play with it and generally make a huge mess. This can attract rats and mice, and may upset the neighbours when they find half a chicken carcass in their begonias.
- Neighbours may not be tolerant. You may see your local fox as a furry friend, but your neighbour may not be too happy about the increase of foxes in their garden. If they have pets or children they may worry about safety, and they are within their right to call an exterminator to kill and remove the foxes.
- Tame foxes aren’t safe foxes. Tame foxes have been known to enter houses through cat flaps in search of food, creating absolute havoc in the home. If they are discovered and the homeowner gets startled, then the fox can panic and there will be at best absolute chaos in the house as things get knocked over and ruined, and at worst there can be attacks if the fox feels threatened, though this is unusual.
So please, next time you fancy giving your local fox a snack. Think twice.