Now you see them...

by Richard Jones

I used to see foxes all the time...Winter nights were alive with the unearthly yelps and screams of the males, hot in pursuit of a vixen.

Richard JonesI used to see foxes all the time. Whenever I looked out of the window there was almost certainly one sniffing about in the garden or strolling nonchalantly down the street. Winter nights were alive with the unearthly yelps and screams of the males, hot in pursuit of a vixen. A couple of years ago there were seven or eight of them, a mother and cubs of what looked to be varying ages, disporting themselves in the next door garden. I now realize that I have not seen one in ages.

It might have something to do with the mange taking their numbers right down. It appeared in south London in 2005 as I recall. Before then, every specimen I saw was a fine thick-pelted creature with glossy coat and stiff brush. Since, the few I have seen have been mostly scrawny-looking beasts.

The worst was early last year when a young adult climbed up the metal fire-escape stairs and decided to sun itself on our first-floor balcony. It had not seen me in the kitchen, so when I sneaked upstairs and peered out through the half-glazed door it was oblivious to me, even though I was only inches away from it. It was in a terrible state. It's hind-quarters were almost completely naked, the skin red and blotchy and scabbed, it's bare rat tail a thin bony stalk. Full grown foxes always look relatively large and heavy-bodied when they are in good health, but this poor hairless critter was skinny and bedraggled.

I know they are still out there though; I often find dollops of their pungently aromatic grey dung, obviously and deliberately laid in the middle of the garden path or right outside the back door. And earlier in the week there were fox footprints on a car bonnet further up the street. Perhaps they are just much more secretive than two or three years ago.

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Gardeners' World Web User 16/11/2007 at 17:54

Every year for the 15 years I've lived here, I've listened to foxes calling each other on the path behind my house - adults calling for a mate, or cubs yipping for Mum, and have regularly seen them in the early evenings. Once, one fell asleep curled up on my drive. This year, I saw one fox only in my garden. In the late summer, I heard it calling and calling for at least half an hour - and for the first time ever, no answering call. It feels like the end of an era, incredibly sad.

Gardeners' World Web User 17/11/2007 at 16:37

I do agree that the incidence of mange could well be the reason for your apparent reduction of foxes, here ( I live in North Antrim) we did not get any mange amongst the fox population to the best of my knowledge and our foxes are thriving, bushy coated and healthy Only one thing said puzzles me, I had always understood that the vixen screams in reply to the short sharp bark of the dog fox, I do hope I have not been giving out false information to friends!

Gardeners' World Web User 18/11/2007 at 21:34

i have a fox around my garden..... he has just taken my lovey white cockrel, and that was in broad daylight with me standing beside her screaming. Today she again entered my garden and just stared at the cat who was unafraid of her, she is used to the fox and her smell...she's next I imagine...I live in the country.

Gardeners' World Web User 19/11/2007 at 20:32

My colleague and I were working in a garden on a farm this week and spotted two beautiful foxes in the field. We were upwind from them and they followed the hedge all the way around to where we were standing. When they spotted us, they looked very shocked and bounced around a bit, then decided we weren't a threat and pottered off. It was in the middle of the day and we just felt so priviledged to have seen them looking so free and easy.

Gardeners' World Web User 20/11/2007 at 15:06

Lovely as they might be, they are causing massive damage to an elderly couples garden that i work on, leaving enormous holes in the ground that disappear under the paths and patios. The holes are dangerous. I wish there was some way of preventing them from doing this.

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