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Pests or guests?

Red Fox by Andrew Kelly

Red Fox by Andrew Kelly

The Irish Wildlife Trust has been inundated with questions from the public regarding foxes since last week’s fox attack in London, the reports of the mass dumping of 20 dead foxes into a river in Limerick and a mutilated fox in Laois.

The IWT recommends that if you have urban foxes coming to your garden, the first thing you should do is to talk to your neighbours. No matter if you are trying to get rid of them or want to feed them – the presence of foxes is an issue affecting your whole community and you should discuss it before taking any action.

Culling or relocating foxes won’t work – foxes are very territorial and new foxes will move to the area soon. If there is food, there will be foxes, no matter how many you remove.

If you don’t want foxes coming to your garden you must remove their food source – don’t leave out any food or food waste, keep your bins closed and secured, and feed your pets indoors. Also, make sure that your neighbours are following the same rules.

If you want to attract foxes to your garden and feed them, make sure your neighbours are as excited about their presence as you are! It might be enjoyable for you to watch them, but not everybody will share your enthusiasm! Your neighbours can call pest control without your knowledge. Also, make sure ‘your’ foxes are not becoming tamer and starting to associate food with people!

Foxes are not dangerous to cats – as professor Steve Harris says, urban foxes and outdoor cats meet on regular basis and fights are very rare. However, an adult fox can kill kittens just as an adult cat can kill fox cubs.

IWT Conservation Officer Jana Stefanova says, ”There are plenty of manuals on ‘fox-proof’ chicken runs, hen houses and other enclosures. Securing your pets and livestock by improving their housing is always cheaper and more effective than having to remove new foxes over and over again.”

Irish law offers no protection for foxes – it is still legal to kill them, trap them and relocate them. The recent case of 20 dead foxes found dumped in Limerick was brought to Gardaí, but even if there were witnesses and the investigation was successful, the offender could only be charged with illegal dumping and environment pollution.

Foxes are wonderful animals which have a long history in Irish heritage and folklore. They have adapted well to our own habitat because of their intelligence and adaptability. Greater understanding can lead to a happy coexistence between both us and the fox.

 

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