A big dog fox ran across the lane, through a ragged hedge, and across a paddock where it was watched with an indifferent air by a group of horses. In the fading daylight, it was beginning a night’s activity. It appeared a young animal, a sleek coat and a full white-tipped brush. It was as unconcerned about a solitary person walking down the road as the horses were by it crossing their field. Have foxes found a detente with their human neighbours? Are they now living in a peaceful coexistence with people to the extent that the sight of a human being is no longer a cause for alarm?
The government website suggests there are liberal regulations applicable to anyone who feels there is a need to deal with foxes:
“To discourage foxes from coming to your property you should:
- secure food waste in bins
- use fencing to protect pets and livestock from foxes
If the problem persists you can use the control methods set out in this guide, but you must not:
- use gassing or poisoning
- block or destroy fox earths if they are occupied
Catch with cage traps and snares
You can use cage traps and snares to catch foxes.
You should check cage traps at least once a day to stop a captured fox suffering.
You shouldn’t relocate or release captured foxes. This will cause foxes stress by transporting and relocating them to an unfamiliar environment.
- only use free-running snares, which relax when the animal is captured
- check snares at least once a day
- humanely kill any fox you catch while it’s in the trap or snare
- release all other animals unharmed – except grey squirrels and mink, which you must humanely kill
You must not:
- place traps or snares near a badger sett or where badgers are present
- place snares in urban areas or public spaces
- use spring traps
You can shoot free foxes using a suitable firearm and ammunition.
You shouldn’t use firearms in urban areas for reasons of public safety.
The British Association for Shooting and Conservation has a code of practice on shooting foxes at night(lamping).
You can’t use dogs to hunt.
You can use dogs to stalk or flush out foxes above ground, but only to stop serious damage to your property. You must:
- use no more than 2 dogs
- shoot the foxes as soon as they break cover
- carry proof that you own the land or have written permission from the landowner
Use repellents or deterrents
You should only use repellents and deterrents approved for use against foxes.”
No-one could complain at a shortage of options. A trapper I once knew, now long dead, would be delighted that the cage traps he used, to ensure that pelts were not damaged, now have an official seal of approval.
Despite the brazen conduct of the foxes and the options available to deal with them, the sound of shotguns is now rare and it is a long time since I heard of a trapper. Have foxes evolved? Have they learned ways of living in s human world that mean they are able to avoid the threat of violence? Will the sight of a big dog fox crossing the road become as unremarkable as seeing a tabby cat crossing?