Foxes are classed as wild animals, not pests (they have not been classified as vermin by DEFRA), therefore we do not have a responsibility to remove them from private or public property.
Controlling urban foxes is a contentious issue and yet there is no solution to the problem. Any attempts to remove them have shown that it is only temporary, and numbers soon return to their previous level. It is for this reason that we do not recommend people contact private pest control companies for fox removal. The fox is usually killed and whilst the homeowners may remain fox free for a few months, sooner or later they start to experience problems again.
However, we do realise foxes cause a problem for many residents and have provided information on how to live with foxes and how to deter them.
Information and control advice
Although classed as predators, foxes are lazy and prefer to scavenge for food, and towns provide the ideal environment for them to thrive. Foxes are now more numerous than they were 10 years ago, but current research suggests London’s fox population has reached its maximum limit. The rise in complaints and number of sightings is due to a change in the foxes’ behaviour, and this may be due to people feeding them. The average age for a London fox is 2 years, with road traffic accidents being responsible for 60% of all fox deaths.
You should not poison foxes as this can put other animals and people at risk.
Do foxes attack people?
Generally, foxes fear humans and given the opportunity will run away. However, a fox may bite to defend itself if cornered. If a fox wanders into your home it is going to be confused and scared, so leave all the doors open and it will probably flee as quickly as possible.
Occasionally foxes approach houses and cat flaps, as they have got used to approaching people for food. They are unlikely to be aggressive and are usually just being inquisitive.
Do foxes attack and kill cats?
Both foxes and cats are nocturnal, so it is not unusual for them to meet and even occupy the same territory. Attacks on cats by foxes appear to be rare. Studies have shown that generally cats and foxes ignore each other when they meet, and on occasions where there is confrontation it is the fox that comes off worse.
It is not illegal to feed foxes, but there are issues that must be considered in feeding them. Feeding foxes can reduce their territory to 10% of its former range, and this can lead to other householders experiencing problems which may endanger the fox. There is also a risk that feeding foxes may attract other animals, such as mice, rats and pigeons, which can pose a threat to human health. Therefore, we do not advise our residents feed them.
If you still wish to feed foxes, we urge you to be responsible in your approach. Foxes are omnivorous and eat a wide diversity of prey, including small mammals, insects and windfall fruit. Cheese, boiled potatoes, chicken carcasses, bread and fat scraps can all be fed. Do not put out too much food - if they are getting all the food they need from one garden, they are unlikely to venture far from it. They may also hide the food in neighbours’ gardens, which can cause a problem for some people.
You should not hand feed foxes as they can become so tame that they may approach strangers expecting food. Many people are frightened of foxes and do not realise that they are being inquisitive not aggressive.
Like all wild animals foxes do carry some diseases, but the risk to human health is very small. The most common disease is mange. This is caused by a small mite that burrows under the skin causing intense irritation to the fox, it can be fatal to the animal if left untreated. Dogs are also susceptible to mange, but the risk to humans is very small. They can also carry roundworm (Toxocara canis) which is found in dog, cat and fox faeces, and which can cause toxocariasis in children. The risk of catching this is low but precautions should be taken to minimise the risk.
When removing fox faeces always wear gloves and use tools that are only designated for that task. If you come into contact with faeces, wash the area immediately and if you have any concerns, you should contact a doctor.
What to do if you find an orphaned fox cub
It is not uncommon for foxes to leave their older cubs unattended, sometimes for quite lengthy periods and only return briefly to feed them. So do not immediately assume that the cubs are orphaned or abandoned. If the cubs are lying quietly, they are probably being cared for. When they are hungry, they will start making plaintive barking noises. If you think they are deserted, do not touch them.
If the cubs are all together and hungry then the mother may have been killed, but if it is a single cub it is much more likely that it has strayed and cannot find its way home. The barking is a contact call, so just keep an eye on it to ensure it isn’t attacked by a cat or dog and soon the vixen should recover it. If you think there is no mother, then contact one of the organisations at the bottom of this page.
As the territory of a fox can be reoccupied by another, deterrence methods are more effective and less costly than pest control. The Fox Project offers practical advice on safe and humane deterrents.
Foxes can also be deterred if you:
- make sure you dispose of your rubbish properly, and put out on the correct collection day
- keep bin lids closed and store against a wall or somewhere foxes cannot easily knock them over
- do not leave food outside or on compost heaps
- clear away all windfall fruit
- clean up after BBQs and picnics
- clear overgrown gardens which could provide resting areas
- use a non-toxic animal repellent, such as Scoot or Stay Off (it may take weeks of constant application to deter the foxes)
- use bird tables that have a roof or feeders that can be hung up if you’re feeding birds
There are several steps that people can take to make their gardens unsuitable for foxes. It is important to remember that when deterring foxes from your garden you must be consistent and persistent in your approach. It may take a while, but eventually the fox will get the message that they are not welcome and move on. It is also important that you continue to use your garden. Many people do not like foxes and stop using their gardens once the foxes move in. This just makes the fox feel more safe and secure as there is very little disturbance. If you continue to use your garden regularly, you are less likely to have foxes nesting in there.
Ensuring the fences that surround your garden are secure can greatly reduce the problems you are experiencing. Foxes can get through very small gaps, so make sure all potential access points are blocked up.
Keep your garden tidy
Tidy away all toys, tools, gloves and shoes
Anything that smells different is interesting to a fox cub and they usually take them away and hide them.
Prevent access to sheds
Sheds, greenhouses and garages are ideal for foxes as they are quiet, warm and usually undisturbed. If you do not want foxes to use these areas, it is important you site them correctly. Always build them on a concrete base, as this will stop a fox from digging underneath, and keep all doors and access points closed when they are not in use.
House all pets safely and securely
Rabbits, guinea pigs, chickens and other small pets are seen as a potential prey to a fox. It is important they are always kept safely and securely. It is recommended that enclosures should have a weld mesh front secured with a good lock that cannot be worked loose. A determined fox will chew through chicken mesh so this should not be used.
As foxes are now frequently seen in the daytime, it is important that precautions are taken in daylight as well. If you leave your pet out, make sure it is in a secure run and you check it regularly. Do not leave your pet unattended in a run for long periods of time.
In cases where foxes are causing a persistent problem, commercial deterrents may help. It is important you only use products that have been approved for use against certain animals as it is illegal to use ones that have not been. The most commonly available product is called Get Off My Garden. This should be used in accordance with the instructions on the packet.
Common problems and solutions
January to February is peak mating season for foxes and this tends to be when people get disturbed by their calling. Although unpleasant, the noise is not a result of the foxes getting hurt. There is little that a household can do to prevent foxes calling at night.
Foxes foul in gardens to scent mark their territory, the same way dogs will scent mark particular areas on their walks.
If they are fouling concrete areas, cleaning with bleach only temporarily masks the smell, so they are still likely to return to the same place. Instead use a biological washing powder mixed with hot water or an enzyme-based product from the vet.
Digging is usually a problem in the summer months when the foxes, particularly cubs, are looking for insect larvae. Commercial deterrents may help, and some allotment holders have reported that lightly crushed garlic cloves can be effective in deterring foxes from areas. You can also protect fruit and vegetable crops with fencing or 4cm mesh. Also avoid using fertilizers containing fish blood or bone meal, as these confuse the fox into thinking there is food buried in the area.