Q Where are foxes found?
A Foxes are extremely common in both urban and rural areas throughout the country. Foxes are highly territorial, with territories ranging from 0.2 to 40 sq km depending on the availability of food. Territories may be occupied by a solitary adult fox, or a small family group made up of a breeding pair, their three to six cubs and related adults.
Caption: Foxes are common in both urban and country gardens
Q What do they eat?
A Foxes are omnivorous, eating a wide range of animal and vegetable foods. Foxes eat small mammals, especially voles and rabbits, worms, beetles and fruit. They will also take small birds and carrion.
Q Why are they attracted to gardens?
A Foxes roam far and wide in search of food and will return to areas where it is plentiful. They often take up residence if there are suitable daytime hiding places such as under sheds or overgrown corners.
Q How do I know if they visit my garden?
A Most people are familiar with the appearance of the russet-brown fox. A young vixen is the size of a cat, an adult dog fox up to 35cm at the shoulder, 60-70cm long with a long bushy tail. Foxes are most often seen at night. Tell-tale signs include their nocturnal cries and distinctive rank, oily smell.
Q What damage do they do in the garden?
A Foxes dig holes to catch earthworms and grubs and both are partial to fruit. They will dig up bulbs and scavenge around bird tables. They also hide or 'cache' food by burying it for future use. One Which? Gardening member found a dead seagull buried in a tub of asparagus, and several have reported undamaged hen's eggs hidden in containers with no sign of disturbance. Foxes make themselves even more unpopular by rummaging in dustbins, leaving strong-smelling scent marks and fouling the area with faeces.
Q How can I deter foxes?
A If foxes have only recently started using your garden, try to make it less attractive to them. Block entrance holes to the garden; remove temptations such as food put out for pets or other wildlife; and avoid anima-product fertilisers such as bonemeal.
Q What if they are regular visitors?
A It's worth experimenting with repellents as they can be effective. The theory is that they’ll deter other animals from what they perceive to be an established fox's territory or just make the area smell unappealing. For best results treat the areas where the animals enter the garden, and any places where foxes lie. Repeat if necessary after 10 days.
Q What about fencing?
A Foxes can climb and jump like cats, so normal fencing is not much of an obstacle to them. However, they can be kept out with roofed structures such as fruit cages. To prevent them scrabbling under the netting, add about 30cm of chicken wire at the base, with half bent outwards and pegged down flat, or buried under a few centimetres of soil.
Q Do visiting foxes cause any health risks?
A Foxes may suffer from mange, which makes their hair fall out. In theory this could be passed on to dogs but in practice it does not seem to happen. If there are mangy foxes in your area, The Fox Project can give advice. Fox faeces may contain parasites, so wear gloves when clearing them up; bury them deeply or wrap them up and bin them. Fox tapeworms have caused concern on the continent, but do not occur in British foxes.
Q Will foxes attack my pets?
A Foxes will attack small pets such as rabbits and guinea pigs, as well as poultry or other birds. Keep them out with secure pens and runs. Foxes tend to avoid dogs, and cats seem well able to look after themselves. Kittens could be at risk, however, so keep them in at night.
Q Do foxes and badgers have any legal protection?
A Landowners are allowed to kill foxes, but this is neither advisable nor necessary in a garden context.
Q How can I find out more about foxes?
A Your local county Wildlife Trust can usually give advice and information, or you could contact one of the organisations listed:
The Fox Project The Lodge Kings Toll Road Pembury Kent TN2 4BE 01892 824111 foxproject.org.uk
The Mammal Society 3 The Camrronades New Road Southampton SO14 0AA 023 80237874 mammal.org.uk
RSPCA Wilberforce Way Southwater Horsham West Sussex RH13 9RS 0300 1234 555 rspca.org.uk RSPCA emergency number for wildlife casualties 0300 1234 999