Foxes on the doorstep

An alleged fox attack on twin baby girls, while they slept upstairs in their east London home, has made front page news and provoked considerable debate.  As people swap their fox experiences, an interesting picture emerges of fox behaviour in an urban setting.

The comments posted in the Guardian suggest that the fox density in certain areas of London is very high, with not enough food to go round, in some cases resulting in a population of unhealthy, short-lived animals.  These city and suburban foxes have lost their fear of people and see them as a potential source of food, with some extraordinary encounters taking place:

I sleep in a ground floor room in a house in Surrey, one day I woke up (after drunkenly having left the patio doors open the night before) to find a fox walking up my body and sniffing my ear. At first I thought it was my cat (not uncommon for her to do that) but the the smell started to penetrate by sleepy head. Sat straight upright and the fox bolted –

Others report having to keep doors and windows closed to keep investigating foxes out, and having had objects damaged or stolen. Foxes have become part of everyday urban life, with the pros and cons:

I’ve had a fox run after me and snap at my bike pedals-in peckham/nunhead, se london. That probably doesn’t tie in with what experts believe foxes do.

On the whole though, I like foxes for keeping the rats down – used to see loads of rats round here, and you never do now.

A division emerged between urbanites who enjoy having wild animals in their garden and country-bred people who berate the former for living a Disneyesque fantasy. Stories of “massacres” in chicken coops were repeatedly brought up to illustrate their point.  This infamous aspect of fox behaviour is neatly explained by a Guardian reader:

Just to clarify the twaddle being peddled about foxes and chicken coops. Most foxes are disturbed by humans mid-way through their systematic cull of a chicken coop. Left to their own devices every single chicken would be removed and stashed for leaner times. It may take several trips, but the fox would remove every single carcass. It is not killing for killings pleasure, it is a tried, tested and very successful strategy for managing a food supply when living in the wild.

The fox cub was photographed by Robin M

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