Foxes are mainly nocturnal mammals and spend the hours of darkness hunting for, and scavenging, food.
Although not unknown, it is unusual to see foxes on our streets during the day, as they tend to avoid people and traffic.
Attacks by foxes upon humans are extremely rare and, despite the well-publicised 'fox attack' which took place in London in June 2010, foxes are not considered to be a significant threat to public safety.
Our urban foxes generally have a short life expectancy of around 12 – 36 months, as a high percentage are killed or sustain injuries crossing roads. Although adult foxes can have up to six cubs in a litter, up to 80% die before reaching sexual maturity and consequently, never breed.
Urban foxes in Portsmouth
Foxes in Portsmouth often live on a diet of food scavenged from refuse bags left out on the street, badly-cleaned or easily accessed refuse storage areas, carelessly discarded fast-food, berries, plant bulbs, worms, garden insects, birds and other small mammals, including rats and mice.
- Portsmouth City Council has neither a legal duty nor the resources to control fox numbers
If sufficient resources did exist, we would still need to cull more than 60% of the fox population to make a material difference to the numbers on our streets. Any void created would quickly be filled by other foxes taking over their established areas.
Culling is unacceptable to many residents, as many like to see foxes in the city. It could be argued that foxes actually benefit our environment because they prey upon a number of pest species, including rats and mice.
Our policy is to try to educate residents about the circumstances which accidentally encourage foxes into gardens, and how simple steps can be taken to prevent foxes from being enticed to stay in a particular area.
These are the measures we recommend:
- avoid leaving household waste out on the street overnight. If possible only put waste out on the morning of the collection day
- do not leave pet food bowls out in the garden
- ensure refuse storage areas cannot be accessed by foxes, rats or mice; and that the floor is kept clean and free from spillages
- store waste in dustbins with fitted lids
- do not drop food litter on the street.
Other than denying foxes a source of food or shelter, there is very little you can do to control foxes.
If a fox has taken up residence in your garden, you could use an appropriate animal repellent, but you should not be tempted to try to poison foxes because this puts other animals (pets, wild birds etc.) and humans at risk.
People who use poisons illegally can face substantial fines and possibly a prison sentence. If you need practical help with foxes you should contact a pest control professional for advice:
Legally, there are only two permitted methods of fox control - cage trapping or shooting. Both methods can only be carried out by a trained pest control professional.
Cage trapping is a relatively safe way of removing foxes - but if a fox is trapped in a cage the animal will be killed by lethal injection.
- The cost usually around £500 - £1000 per fox - and the resident that contracts the company is responsible for the costs
Not only are both methods of controlling foxes impractical, they can also be a waste of time and money as any respite achieved by removing a fox is generally temporary - other foxes will quickly colonize the now ‘vacant’ territory.
Other useful facts about foxes
- Foxes are very unlikely to kill cats, and shouldn't be able to kill other outdoor pets if runs or hutches are kept secure
- Foxes in the UK do not carry rabies
- We would recommend that you do not feed foxes, as it makes them tame
- Urban foxes can get mange (from the same mite which causes mange in dogs and scabies in people) but no more than country foxes
- You can't stop a fox screaming - this normally only occurs in the mating season around December and January
- You can try to stop foxes fouling in your garden using formulations designed for cats and dogs
- Foxes will dig gardens for worms, grubs and beetle larva in wet autumns and springs - stop the digging by using a commercially available insecticide to remove the insects
- Stop foxes living under your house by ensuring that your property is in good repair, replacing any broken air bricks and sealing holes around pipes