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Fox Wars

Love them or hate them, there are 33,000 urban foxes roaming Britain's suburbia. For the residents of the Copse in Sutton-in-Ashfield, Nottinghamshire - as for so many other suburbanites - the urban fox provides evenings of enchantment. A cul-de-sac of neighbours compete to offer the tastiest snacks for their bushy-tailed visitors, with one couple even setting up their own CCTV system to provide happy evenings of Fox TV.

Nobby, a resident of Brookside, north London, is also a keen fox feeder. The vixen he has been feeding for the past five years provides him with a welcome distraction and companion through the night hours. But Nobby's approach isn't much appreciated by his neighbours. They blame him for attracting more foxes into the area and making them bolder. His near neighbour Sofia has to take extreme measures in order to protect her flock of Bantam hens. "If a fox killed my chickens I'd be absolutely devastated. I don't know what I'd do. I'd probably start shooting them myself," she says.

There are 16 foxes for every square mile in London, living off food scavenged from dustbins and discarded takeaways. They can live up to 14 years but most urban foxes only manage two. Some are killed by pest controllers like Tim, who's been shooting foxes for 14 years, or Lee, who has killed over 2,000 foxes in the last 10 years. It's not easy work - it often takes hours of waiting and tracking and it can cost up to £200 per fox.

Not all pest controllers favour the gun. Foxagon is one of the few humane pest controllers in the UK: they specialise in moving foxes on rather than destroying them and claim to have so far saved the lives of more than 200 foxes. Foxes tend to have about five cubs a season, making a busy spring for Foxagon's Terry. He argues there's no point in killing urban foxes as another fox will quickly move into the same territory.

Terry would have a hard time making a fox lover of Janet, whose beloved garden in Newport, south Wales, has been persistently and pungently fouled by foxes. Janet has big plans for her garden fox: "I will put 20,000 volts through it. I will fry it," she says.

Fox haters, huggers and hunters: life with our ever bolder suburban neighbour.

45 minutes

Last on

Christmas Eve 2013 02:30

Outfoxing the urban fox

There are an estimated 33,000 urban foxes in the UK's towns and cities. Outwitting the wily creatures is becoming an increasingly popular way to control them humanely.

 

The BBC News Magazine on 'humane fox deterrence'

Credits

Role Contributor
Executive ProducerNick O'Dwyer
DirectorLeon Dean

Red fox on BBC Nature

Fox

Red foxes have overtaken grey wolves as the most widespread canines in the wild.

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