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FOX

NATURE IN CONTROL

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Information about the Fox

Vulpes Vulpes

Fox, Charlie, Rufus or Reynard

Habitat: 

Urban & gardens, rivers and wetland, coastal & marshland, deciduous woodland, mixed woodland, arable land

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Description: 

Reddish orange fur, white on the neck and belly, brown/black legs, small dog sized; thick bushy tail in winter.

Size: Average male 67-72cm, females 62-67cm; tail about 40cm 

Weight: Average 6-7kg for males; 5-6kg for females. 

Diet: 

Foxes have a very wide and varied diet. On salt marshes they eat crabs and dead seabirds, while in upland regions carrion may be important, particularly during the winter months. In lowland rural areas small mammals, especially field voles and rabbits, are the major source of food, with earthworms, beetles, fruit (particularly blackberries) and small birds also being eaten. Urban foxes glean large amounts of food, much of this deliberately supplied by local householders. This is supplemented by scavenging from dustbins, bird tables and compost heaps. Those living in some urban areas eat many small birds and feral pigeons.

Lifespan: 

Although up to 9 years old has been recorded in the wild, most survive only one to three years.

Origin & Distribution: 

A highly adaptable species, found across Britain, but absent from Scottish Islands (except Skye), in all habitats from salt marshes and sand dunes to the tops of mountains. In Britain, more so than elsewhere in Europe, foxes have also adapted to life in urban surroundings.

Behaviour: 

Foxes hold territories, the size of which depends on habitat; they can be as small as 0.2 square kilometres in urban areas or up to 40 square kilometres in hill country. Each territory is occupied by a fox family group. These often consist of a pair (dog fox and vixen) and their cubs. However, in areas where foxes are not persecuted and where there is a plentiful supply of food, a family group may contain several adults.

Breeding:    
Usually only one vixen in a group produces cubs once a year in the spring. Litters average four to five cubs which are born blind and deaf in a den (called an earth). The earth may be dug by the foxes, or they may enlarge a rabbit burrow or use holes made by other animals. In urban areas, cubs are often born under garden sheds. A vixen stays in the earth with her cubs for the first two weeks of their lives. At about four weeks old, usually in late April or early May, cubs begin to come into the open.

Conservation Status: 

Foxes are not protected legally. For many years they were hunted for their fur, and as part of coutryside tradition. The Hunting Act 2004 outlawed hunting with dogs in England and Wales, from 18th February 2005. This also applies to the hunting of deer, hares and mink.

Identification:

Red/orange fur with white muzzle, neck and belly. Legs and backs of ears dark brown/black. Long bushy tail with white tip, held horizontally. Size of small dog.

Footprints: Tracks can be found in sand and mud (and snow) in farmland, grassland, woodland and urban areas. They are four-toed prints, and can be confused with domestic cat and dog. The key difference is that a diagonal cross can be drawn through the fox print and not through the dog and cat prints. Footprint width 3.5cm and length 5cm. Footprints of a trotting fox usually form a straighter line than those of a dog and can be distinguished from dogs by drawing a line between outer and inner two toe pads

Droppings: Fox droppings are full of fur, bone fragments and often fruit pips. They are usually twisted, with a tapering ‘tail’ at one end. Variable size, approximately 8-12cm in length, 2cm in width. Colour: brown, black, grey. Smell: characteristic pungent smell.

FOX

To discourage foxes from coming to your property you should:

  • secure food waste in bins

  • use fencing to protect pets and livestock from foxes

If the problem persists you can use the control methods set out in this guide, but you must not:

  • use gassing or poisoning

  • block or destroy fox earths if they are occupied

Catch with cage traps and snares

You can use cage traps and snares to catch foxes.

You should check cage traps at least once a day to stop a captured fox suffering.

You shouldn’t relocate or release captured foxes. This will cause foxes stress by transporting and relocating them to an unfamiliar environment.

You must:

  • only use free-running snares, which relax when the animal is captured

  • check snares at least once a day

  • humanely kill any fox you catch while it’s in the trap or snare

  • release all other animals unharmed – except grey squirrels and mink, which you must humanely kill

You must not:

  • place traps or snares near a badger sett or where badgers are present

  • place snares in urban areas or public spaces

  • use spring traps

Shooting

You can shoot free foxes using a suitable firearm and ammunition.

You shouldn’t use firearms in urban areas for reasons of public safety.

The British Association for Shooting and Conservation has a code of practice on shooting foxes at night(lamping).

Use dogs

You can’t use dogs to hunt.

You can use dogs to stalk or flush out foxes above ground, but only to stop serious damage to your property. You must:

  • use no more than 2 dogs

  • shoot the foxes as soon as they break cover

  • carry proof that you own the land or have written permission from the landowner

Use repellents or deterrents

You should only use repellents and deterrents approved for use against foxes.

Hunting

It’s illegal to hunt foxes with a pack of dogs. You can use dogs to simulate hunting, for example ‘drag’ or ‘trail’ hunting.

You can use up to 2 dogs to chase (‘flush’ or ‘stalk’) foxes out of hiding if the fox is causing damage to your property or the environment.

Your dogs can’t go underground to find the foxes unless they’re threatening wild or game birds kept for shooting - only one dog can go underground at any time.

You must:

  • shoot the fox quickly after it’s been found

  • carry proof you own the land you’re shooting on or written permission from the landowner

You can be fined, and your dogs or hunting equipment taken away if you break the law.

There are other ways you can control foxes if they’re causing damage to your property or the environment.

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