Fox droppings

Posted: Thursday 2 September 2010
by Richard Jones

The foxes of East Dulwich are particularly well fed. I can tell this for sure, because I have been able to examine, very closely, what comes out of the other end of the fox.

Fox staring directly at cameraThe foxes of East Dulwich are particularly well fed. I can tell this for sure, because I have been able to examine, very closely, what comes out of the other end of the fox. Last week, we received two parcels of fox dung on the pavement outside the front garden; one to the left, and one to the right of the front gate. I think there has been something of a power vacuum whilst we’ve been away on holiday. I’m not taking this personally.

I like to think of myself as something of an expert on dung — a scatologist perhaps? Looking for dung beetles is an oddly satisfying occupation, and I’ve spent many a happy hour working my way round a grazing meadow dissecting cow pats to see what goes on in this hidden world of natural by-product recycling.

Horse dung is the most pleasant to work with. It was eminent English physician George Cheyne (1671-1742) who said something along the lines that the Creator had deliberately made horse dung smell so sweet, because he knew that mankind would oft be in its presence. Cow dung is a bit messy because it is so runny. Sheep and deer dung is tough and fibrous. Cat and dog dung can be a bit ripe, but fox dung is, to my mind, the most difficult on the nose.

Fox poo on pavementNevertheless, I always take the opportunity to examine what the fox has left. In my back garden I’ve found the handsome squat bronze and yellow dung beetle, Onthophagus coenobita. At Down House (Darwin’s former home) a fox scat was being examined by one of the carrion beetles, Nicrophorus vespilloides. That particular dropping must have been very rich in crushed bones and protein. It’s something to do with the fox’s short digestive tract; things pass through very quickly helping avoid the problems humans, with their much longer intestines, can develop if they ignore simple food hygiene rules.

The problem with my two squirts of fox dung was that they were sitting on tarmac. No matter how attractive the odour might be to passing recyclers, dung on hard-standing will never be recycled, because the beetles and fly larvae cannot burrow into the soil beneath. Instead, they just sit there until some unfortunate child wheels a bicycle through the noisome mess.

So I took my broom and a bucket of water and shlooshed them away. Such a waste. Oh well, I can always go and see what the cats have left in the back garden. Could be rich pickings.

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Gardeners' World Web User 02/09/2010 at 15:10


Gardeners' World Web User 02/09/2010 at 17:37

I have heard that a solution of sulphate of iron in water is good for improving brown patches on the this correct?

Gardeners' World Web User 02/09/2010 at 21:19

I'm so glad that foxes don't visit my garden although we have them in the area, maybe it's because I don't feed them and never will as they are not pets, just juggle the letters around and you will see it spells pest that is what they become in a built up area. as pretty as they are.

Gardeners' World Web User 04/09/2010 at 11:26

i love foxes and feed them daily....[that will upset a few people..]i to check there poo, although my fox that i feed has a good bowel movement [hard poo]and has good manners as he always poos in the same place,,,,i also worm him...........

Gardeners' World Web User 09/09/2010 at 19:28

I have recently heard about cases of apparent poisoning of rats, cats and who knows what wildlife and domestic pets might be affected. Has anyone else heard of similar cases in their neighbourhood, and is there a connection with the recent 'KILLER FOX' stories that have been in the news of late?

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