Fox Facts

 

Noisy creatures

Foxes are very vocal at certain times of the year. Other than when catching food, they rarely use their teeth. The noise is a warning to others that this is their home. Foxes come into season once a year for between 3 and 6 days. They need to attract a mate in this time and so can be extremely loud. Unfortunately for us, foxes are still mainly nocturnal so the noise is exaggerated at night and can disturb us.

Foxes need food

When we feed garden birds, we cannot be selective and we must remember we will be feeding far more than just our feathered friends. 

In nature, most creatures, including foxes, have three needs:

1. FOOD
2. REPRODUCTION
3. SAFE HOME

Everything in-between is not essential, and therefore wildlife locates in areas where all three needs are met.

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Attracting foxes

Feeding garden birds in your garden has several knock-on effects. If you are feeding and attracting garden birds, then you are also attracting their predators. In most cases, that will be birds such as sparrow hawks, magpies and crows. All of these birds will pick smaller birds off your bird table or wait in the trees and bushes to ambush them as they leave. You are, in effect, supplying a restaurant surrounded by very shrewd muggers.

If you have a supply of food and water, then I can almost guarantee that you will be increasing the rat population. Most wildlife population have troughs and booms reflecting the available food supply, and rats are wonderful exploiters of the human companion of attractive garden birds. They are also fast breeders. A pair of rats can become 2,000 rats in six months. We know that rat populations increase where people feed birds .

You will have squirrels if you feed birds. Don't waste your money on a squirrel-proof nut-feeder because they pretty much don't exist. The clever squirrel is one of the few mammals who studies his brother or sister and tries out a new strategy each time he’s cracking a new "squirrel-proof" feeder. You will have pigeons if you feed garden birds, as they are attracted by the food and will happily wander under a nut-feeder or bird-feeding station and pick up scraps. By feeding the bird you can increase their birth rate and, therefore, the amount of fledglings that will fall from the nest and become naturally scavenged .

And, of course, last but not least, the fox, who will be attracted by all this activity, will pick up any left-over nuts and food on his nightly rounds, and scavenge falling fledglings and any low sleeping birds. 

If you have a problem with foxes, then you are probably doing something to encourage them. Do not feed anything in your garden.

Keep your pets and chickens secure. 

Foxes will kill an entire flock if they manage to get into a confined yet insecure run. The run will be just like a supermarket for our hungry fox. The clever fox will kill all the trapped birds, then come and collect them over the next few days to bury and store them. It’s how the clever foxes survive the winter. Foxes only come with paws and teeth, they don’t have drills or saws, so surely you can outwit them and make your pet homes safe.

Pick up fallen fruit from your trees and bushes as foxes eat this too, and during late summer they eat lots of fruits as it forms a major part of their diet.

Do not provide foxy homes like dry spaces under your shed or decking, and make sure outbuildings are secure. The intelligent fox needs a home for his family and somewhere to rest. Don’t make it your home. 

Do not feed foxes

Foxes have an important role in nature, but by feeding them you are interfering with that role. If you feed them, they will become dependant on you and numbers will increase. The food they eat naturally ensures their health, and it is this we should be encouraging. Foxes do not overeat, so any excess food will be stored by the fox. The fox may be removing food from your garden, but he is only moving it next door into lovely dug beds. He is unable to write a note to say, "leave this alone", so he will scent mark his stored and buried food with poo so that other foxes know not to steal it. If you have an increase in digging and scenting, then you are probably supplying the fox with food somewhere.

Cats and foxes 

We have no evidence of foxes attacking cats. Cats attack other cats, and cat kill cats. The diet of a fox is mainly worms, grubs, beetles and road kill. Foxes will carry off a cat killed on the road. In all video evidence we have, the cats always chase away the foxes.

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Fox earths and digging in your garden

Vixens usually prepare several earths prior to giving birth. If she is disturbed from one she will move her cubs to another. If you are experiencing digging but have no fox in the earth, then yours may be one dug for an emergency. Get Off My Garden (see below) or Scoot (see below) around the entrance to the earth will encourage the fox to move. If you wish to fill in an earth, and to check there is no fox inside an earth, put hay over the entrance for three days to see if it is removed. Foxes only breed once a year but that time varies in different areas. The season can range from January to May. During this time a female can spend several days underground so please ensure your fox has moved on before filling any fox holes. As foxes forage for food they dig shallow holes or furrows. They are looking for worms, grubs and beetles - their favourite being crane-fly larvae. Get Off My Garden granules (see below) can be used by squirting liberally into each furrow and re-covering.

Damage to your garden is caused in several ways. 

During cub season, the plants can be trampled by cubs tumbling and playing just like puppies. They will sometimes pull and drag the plants out of pots and have such fun. Unfortunately, when they return the following night at their playtime, they will do the same and will not be respectful of the fact that you have spent the day clearing away the mess. They are just like puppies with a favourite toy and game. Foxes live for fourteen years in captivity but rarely make their second birthday in the wild. As you can see, this makes for a playful fox. The cubs will not go far from home, and so this can happen for up to three months before the cubs disperse - usually in August and September. At this time they are noisy. As they look for new homes, around 75% of all cubs will be killed at this time on roads, or by infection from a wound.

Newly dug soil is very attractive to foxes as it is good digging soil. Foxes are very playful and, like some dogs, just love digging. Foxes store food, and this is how they have survived. They bury food in the ground to store it. If you use animal based fertilizers or bone meal, then foxes will think that there is food buried in the soil, and so digging can increase. You can change the type of fertilizer you use or use deterrents such as Get Off My Garden (see below) around the plants.

On lawns, the use of Scoot (see below) will have the same effect. Wash off (see below) and Get off (see below) is better for hard surfaces. 

Fox mess

Foxes are territorial but, unlike us, do not have land registry or fences to define their space. They mark their territory with their scent. This is a warning to other foxes that this home is taken. They do not bury the poo for this reason. They will often mark in open ground to show this clearly.

Squirting Get Off My Garden (see below) on, or next to, the fouling will usually break this habit by fooling the fox into thinking that a more dominant creature is in that territory. 

To prevent the fox returning, remove all faeces each day and re-scent until you have regained your space.  You may find when you first use these artificial scents that the fouling increases but, with persistence, it will decrease. You are simply having your own mini turf war. The fox is trying to intimidate you with his scent, so just keep playing the game and you will win.

Mother nature has roles for all our wildlife. Please don’t interfere with her wherever possible. Mother really does know best.

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