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Wednesday, 3 October 2012

Dealing with problems caused by foxes

Foxes can cause a problem in your neighbourhood but local councils don't have to remove them. Find out what you can do to make your area less attractive to foxes and how this can help to avoid problems.

Problems caused by foxes

Foxes can cause problems because they:

  • mark their territory with unpleasant scent and droppings
  • raid refuse or compost bins
  • can dig up plants, flower beds or lawns searching for insects and worms or to bury surplus food
  • make loud 'screams' at night - mainly from December to May
  • use spaces under houses, sheds and outbuildings to make 'dens'
  • can eat small pets, like rabbits

Find out about urban foxes' living and breeding habits on Natural England's website.

Removing sources of food

The main way to make your area unattractive to foxes is to remove sources of food and places to live. Make sure that you:

  • don’t leave food out
  • use a covered bird table that is at least 1.5 metres above the ground
  • clear up any spilled food if you feed birds in your garden
  • don’t store rubbish outside in plastic bags
  • use refuse and compost bins made of metal or tough plastic, with tightly secured lids
  • clear away fallen fruit and any decaying food waste
  • use welded mesh instead of chicken wire for pet enclosures (you can get this from a local DIY store)

Fly-tipping in your neighbourhood could attract foxes. If you live in England, you can follow the link below to report this to your local council.

The Fox Website has advice on deterring foxes – follow the link ‘Advice on managing and deterring urban foxes’. The Fox Project website gives information on the places foxes like to live, their diet and humane methods of deterrence.

Removing possible living spaces

If you think foxes are using enclosed spaces or burrows as a den, first check if they are still occupied. You can do this by filling the hole with loosely packed newspaper or straw. If this isn’t removed after at least a week, but ideally more, it's unlikely that the space is occupied and it can be blocked up.

Blocking empty living spaces

If the space is occupied by foxes (or other animals) it’s illegal to trap them by blocking the entrance. Instead, wait until the foxes stop using the space and then block the entrance before the next breeding season, which lasts from December to May.

Foxes don’t usually stay in a den after they have reared their cubs and will usually leave of their own accord. If they choose to stay, you can encourage them to leave by changing the immediate surroundings or placing a new object nearby. Foxes are typically afraid of new things.

Legal protection for badgers

If you think badgers are using the space, you mustn’t block the entrance. Badgers and the places they live in are protected and to do this is illegal. For more information about badgers, see the link ‘Advice on badgers from Natural England’.

Legal protection for foxes

It’s against the law to treat foxes cruelly. Find out more information on foxes and the law from page five onwards of 'The red fox in rural areas'.

Foxes and infectious diseases

Foxes can carry parasites and infectious diseases. However, you can protect yourself very effectively by washing your hands and those of your children after working or playing in the garden. You should also make sure that pet dogs and cats are treated regularly for worms.

Using chemicals to deter foxes

If you do use repellents for foxes, you should only use substances approved by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE). An example of an approved substance is one containing aluminium ammonium sulphate. You can usually buy repellents at large hardware stores or garden centres.

'Controlling pests and weeds: greener choices’ has advice about how to use pesticides in a way that is kinder to the environment. 

Follow the link below to the Health and Safety Executive database of approved products.

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