Tuesday, June 08, 2010


Most mornings and evenings we would see a fox and his vixen appear in the London garden. They seemed very much at home, often sunbathing on the shed roof, or sitting under bushes near the front door.  It was a busy area, both with main trunk roads and an underground line that made plenty of noise, which ran under the founds of the house. There were plenty of signs that the foxes had a lair somewhere nearby. I was advised not to block up the gap holes that had already been dug under the fence. If I did, new ones, I was told, would appear. The brick wall could not be breached, the wooden gates could be. 

Some years before, the owner of the house had placed a bird table in the centre of the garden; not all her discarded bread scraps were on the bird table, and very little was eaten by the birds . It was clear that her misguided animal feeding had attracted rather a lot of grey squirrels that she liked to observe and probably other wildlife, some of it unheard of in urban areas till recent years. She was oblivious to the developing problem, which was uncovered by a leak in the roof of the house. 

The local authority were called in to deal with an infestation of squirrels that had homed themselves in the rather spacious loft of the house, also that of an attached neighbour. The rodent people did their job and they made follow-up inspections. A bill was duly paid.   Firm and clear instructions were given against leaving out any food scraps for any purpose, to avoid a repetition of the infestation. This instruction included bird food, seeds and nuts, the squirrels would love them.

The squirrels were rarely seen after the clear out, yet the foxes regularly arrived. There were plenty of fruit trees in neighbourhood gardens, plums, pears, and this one had apples. I don't know if foxes eat windfall fruits, they'll certainly forage in bins and break open the obligatory refuse sacks (as do pigeons and gulls) that the local authority demand are left - unprotected in many urban places - for collection.   There seemed to be a reason for the foxes being so comfortably where they were, the main one, doubtless, being, food.

Where I live, in a rural area, foxes are rarely seen in gardens, and certainly are guarded against near or on farms. They are out in fields; sometimes you see one on the verge of a road that has been in collision with a vehicle.


Anonymous said...

i've only ever seen a fox close-up before and that was in my garden as i peeked out of the window one night.

squirrels are lovely to watch too but i wouldn't want to be infested by them!

ZACL said...

Ref. squirrels, be warned,Ax. It was quite an infestation. Prior to that experience, the only other reason I knew for rodent disposal teams to be called, was in houses, where the occupants could no longer physically be as hygienic and careful as they had been through age and/or infirmity. Cupboards at ground level, say in kitchens or dining rooms, usually on the ground floor, were favourite places to find rats and mice. Linens would be found bitten to shreds, there were signs of habitation in every dark nook.

I did leave a garden level door open sometimes when in London, a fox never, ever, wandered in. That doesn't mean to say a fox would not, it just means that it was not within the experience of the lady or me.

Anonymous said...

i'd have thought foxes and other wild creatures would be quite well fed anyway thanks to all the rubbish we leave on the streets and out in the open...i know that foxes are nearby as one took next doors' rabbit a year or so back.

Anonymous said...

I see both most days and I've always been happy to have them around. Having said that I know that they can be problem in urban areas where they are in close contact with us, unlike rural areas.
Sadly with their natural habitats diminishing then conflict with them becomes ever more likely. Flighty xx

ZACL said...

Hi Ax,

Man has much to answer for encroaching on wildlife habitats; local authority regulation and obligation regarding refuse, causes problems, not even thought about, let alone unintended.

Composting anything that composts in densely populated areas, is another attraction to wildlife and infestation. There is a lot of unintelligent 'green' urban behaviour. It is easy to blame packaging for extra refuse; it might create different forms of refuse to when we were young, it doesn't however, feed foxes or squirrels.

Even protecting the rubbish in bins from birds, rodents and wildlife in general, is discouraged in many districts; it slows down the collection job. Health and Safety is cited on occasion. It is a god-sent feeding opportunity for animals.

Like people who migrate to where they can survive, so does wildlife, and that includes foxes.

ZACL said...

Hello Mr F,

A relative had a picture of a fox feeding from the hand of an allotmenteer on her allotment within a city. Did this person think about the urban problems for both the animals and people? I doubt it. On seeing the picture I didn't and neither did the person who showed me the photo.