Fox trot

by Richard Jones

For most of us, foxes are probably the most impressive wildlife we ever see in our gardens.

FoxSeveral foxes, or the same one several times, have trotted up through the garden during the last week. As I sit tapping on the laptop on the kitchen table I get a good view out through the French windows, but I'm all but invisible to them and they saunter past without a care. One sniffed at the guinea-pig hutch, then squeezed through the gap in the fence and was gone.

We city dwellers have a soft spot for these animals. For most of us, foxes are probably the most impressive wildlife we ever see in our gardens. And because they are so widely fed, or can so successfully scavenge, they obviously do very well here. I know, however, that they are not so welcomed in many rural areas.

My mother, a farmer's daughter, cannot understand why my children think foxes are so wonderful. She tells the tales, so common in farming communities, of foxes getting into the chicken runs and killing everything, even though only one or two birds are eaten. Such blatant (and seemingly vindictive) waste grates hard.

As a disinterested (that's dispassionate not uninterested) ecologist, I can perfectly understand why the fox behaves like this. The instinct to kill is deeply ingrained and under normal 'wild' circumstances the occasional double or multiple strike means the fox can go back the next day to recover further victims. But when it finds the unnatural corral of dozens of birds, the fox's continued slaughter becomes out of proportion and it then finds itself persecuted by the birds' owners seeking revenge.

There are quite a number of urban chickens in East Dulwich these days (and probably elsewhere in London and other cities too). Some neighbours had six or eight birds, until a fox got in. Someone forgot to close the hens up one night. Only one survived, it had been hen-pecked and penned separately. It was a strange sight to see feathers blowing on the wind across the tarmac that night. I wonder how much urban chicken loss needs to happen, before us townies start to view foxes differently.

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Gardeners' World Web User 21/01/2009 at 12:42

We have peacocks in our garden and the foxes have had two of them over the years. They peacocks normally roost high in the oak tree, but for reasons unknown to us, on 2 occasions they haven't and therefore fallen victim. Although this makes me sad, I see it as nature taking its course. The fox has to eat, and is not aware that these are pets to us, or even someone's livelihood. I have seen film of foxes that have killed all the chickens in a roost. They may eat some there but then they take them away to bury and store. Of course if they are disturbed during this process, the job will not be completed and it seems that a pointless killing spree has taken place. I try to stay true to the belief that nature is nature, and foxes eat chickens (and peacocks), just as we eat chickens.

Gardeners' World Web User 22/01/2009 at 20:40

A fox came and ate my rabbit! It took the head and left the body and I'd just finished burying it and it came back for it..I was stood there broad daylight and it jumped up onto the fence and we both froze staring at one was a beautiful creature. I'd have left the body for it if I'd known it was going to come back. I missed my rabbit though.

Gardeners' World Web User 23/01/2009 at 09:37

We have a three generations of foxes which vistit our garden, I am not ashamed to say that we feed them as we do the birds and they even have names. We have become quite attached to them over the years, yes they try to catch the birds and squirels and are sometimes sucessful but that is nature. We have sparrowhawks which kill the birds but accept that this is nature and are pleased to see them. Man has to learn to give wildlife space too.

Gardeners' World Web User 23/01/2009 at 11:39

I must admit I put food out for the foxes. I just do not like to throw away food , especially if someone needs it .

Gardeners' World Web User 23/01/2009 at 15:29

I live in the Dulwich area. I loathe the foxes that ruin my garden, keep me awake and cause untold mess when they can get hold of any rubbish from bins. Ever been in Dulwich Park as it opens, Richard, and seen the filth and mess they leave behind as they scavenge through the Park? Alot of it is in the playground where small children are exposed to the diseases they no doubt carry. And don't get me started on people who feed them. I can see I am alone in this blog having this view, but around where I live there are many people who feel as I do.

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