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.

urban red fox london

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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.

About me

Joy Jewell is a London based dog obsessive and style connoisseur. Joy has worked in the fashion and beauty industry as a writer for nearly a decade, and decided to fuse her two loves – style and canines – to create Paws and Prada in 2014. If you would like to talk to Joy about anything from blogging to puppy training then drop her a line at [email protected] or find her on Twitter @PawsandPrada.


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Reply October 20, 2015

In the US rabies can still be a problem with wildlife. While I was sitting on my back porch in north central Texas in a suburban neighborhood, a fox approached, drank water from a birdbath and then ran straight for me. I was able to get inside but not before it nipped me on the back of my heal.

I spent the day trying to learn what to do about a rabies bite by calling the City, County, State, Health Departments and my personal doctor. None of them wanted to take responsibility for the answer/info I was seeking which was, "do I need to be tested for rabies?" During each call I was referred to a different department without any definitive answer.

Since no one seemed to be concerned I decided to make the determination myself. Since my skin had been scratched by the fox's teeth, but did not break the skin making it bleed, I decided to self-monitor and continue to seek medical adice until it could be determined IF I had anything to be concerned about. Bottom-line is when an animal behaves in anyway other than normal behavior, i.e. wildlife normally takes flight when around humans. Please stay alert, keep a safe distance from all wild creatures and respect their safety as much as your own.

    Reply October 20, 2015

    Thank you so much for your detailed comment Linda!

    That must have given you quite the scare, and it goes a long way to showing how important it is that wild animals are kept that way - WILD and naturally fearing humans. Thanks again for your brilliant comment and taking the time to write.

Ruth Turner
Reply October 20, 2015

I still find the concept that foxes are common place ciconcept hard to grasp! I have always lived in the country, where foxes are supposed to be, and you'd be lucky if you saw a fleeting glance of one running across a field or down a country lane at night. Its exciting to see them and they always look so fit and healthy with a shiny bushy coat. In my opinion that is the rightful place and behaviour of foxes, not walking along residential streets in daylight or sitting in a town centre.

    Reply October 20, 2015

    Hi Ruth, it took me a while to get used to seeing them so often when I moved to London. Now I see them almost daily, in broad daylight and they are SO different in behaviour to their rural cousins!

      Ruth Turner
      Reply October 20, 2015

      I guess that's never going to change now, unless there is a dramatic government intervention which probably wont be pretty. It'll be interesting to see where we are with urban foxes in 20, 30, 40 years from now.

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