Urban Foxes

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About foxes

Foxes are classed as wild animals, not pests, and the Council has no statutory powers or legal rights to eradicate foxes on private or other land.

Nevertheless, foxes can be a nuisance.  This page explains some of the problems that can be caused by urban foxes and gives advice on how to ease these problems. With this information, you will be able to decide how best to approach your fox problem.

Habitat

Foxes prefer suburban areas, with large gardens where they can find shelter beneath shrubbery, sheds, and in other quiet areas, for example, alongside railway tracks or in parks and other open spaces. Foxes excavate burrows, known as earths or dens, in those areas, particularly where there is dense vegetation.

Breeding

Foxes breed just once a year. The mating season begins in January when the screeching mating cries can be heard during the night and the early hours. A litter of four to five cubs is born about late March, and the cubs remain exclusively inside the den for about six to eight weeks.

Dens become abandoned by June or July, when the cubs will begin to learn how to forage for food. By September, the cubs will be just about fully grown, and in late October the cubs leave the family, to set up their own territory, often nearby.

Diet

Foxes are mainly nocturnal, so they do usually search for food during hours of darkness. They are omnivorous; their usual diet is birds, worms, small mammals, insects, fruit and household refuse, when they can get it. In city areas, discarded food (take-away food, household rubbish and pet food left out overnight) can make up more than half of a fox’s daily diet.

The main problems caused by urban foxes

The most common complaints about urban foxes are:

Noise - Although foxes vocalise throughout the year, their calls are most obvious during the mating season, around January and February. It is then their barks and screams are most likely to be heard; fortunately, the calls are usually short-lived and things quieten down fairly quickly.

Fouling - As well as barking and screaming, foxes communicate with each other using scent. They can leave strong-smelling urine and droppings in prominent places around gardens to mark their territories.

Rifling through rubbish - Foxes are often blamed for ripping open bin liners and spreading rubbish around. Although foxes will scavenge food from almost anywhere, seagulls, cats and rats have very similar habits and may be to blame for causing the mess. The correct use of wheelie bins reduces this problem significantly.

Den-building - Foxes spend a lot of their time resting in their dens. During the breeding season, young fox cubs live in their earth until they are old enough to start exploring the outside world. In towns, foxes can build dens under sheds, in cellars or even underneath houses.

Solutions for dealing with foxes

The 3 main ways of deterring foxes from coming into your garden are:

Removing food sources - Ensure any food waste in your garden is secured in a wheelie bin with the lid closed.  Do not leave pet food or food for wild birds out overnight. 

Removing shelter – Cut back any overgrown or neglected vegetation.  Block off any voids underneath shed or buildings with heavy duty mesh, buried to a depth of 30cm into the soil. 

If you have a den in your garden or on your land you can block the entrance, but you should only ever use soft soil whilst there are cubs around (you must be sure the den is completely vacated before blocking it with rubble or cement). Do not trap foxes inside their den as this is cruel and illegal.  

Using repellents –You can use a non-toxic animal repellent to discourage foxes. These are available from garden centres, hardware and DIY stores as well as online. Some examples include Scoot, Stay Off, Get Off My Garden or Wash Off and Get Off.

Ipswich Borough Council discourages the use of ultrasonic repellents due to the associated increase in noise complaints from neighbours, whose children can get distressed at the high-pitched noise these repellents emit.

Repellents are not foolproof and success with repellents requires persistence. Foxes will not vacate their territory easily. Problems with scent marking and faeces may get worse before they get better because foxes will increase their scent marking if their territory is threatened. Successfully deterring foxes will require constant re-application of the repellent, often for weeks, before the foxes give up and move on.

Professional Pest Control for foxes

Cases of foxes living underneath houses are rare, but serious, and action should be taken to remove them. If foxes have got in, you can employ a pest control company to eradicate them. However, please note that you will be responsible for the costs of killing and disposing of the animal (which can be considerable).

The British Pest Control Association website is useful for finding a suitable pest control professional. Only trained pest control professionals can kill or trap foxes.

Further information

For more information about less common problems caused by foxes, please see http://www.thefoxwebsite.net/urbanfoxes/urbanconflict

 

Contact Details

Environmental Health,
Ipswich Borough Council,
3W Grafton House,
15-17 Russell Road,
Ipswich,
IP1 2DE

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01473 432000