Tuesday, 22 March 2011

The urban fox - one immigrant we really should be getting tough with

Foxes, I’ll admit, are generally a lot quieter than leaf-blowers (see previous post) – but they make up for it by invariably holding their riotous, noisy parties in the middle of the night. For instance, I was woken up last night by a number of these verminous pilferers conducting a running street battle, during which they yowled, shrieked and hissed like a gang of inebriated town-centre chavs at chucking-out time (if such a ritual is still observed).

Before these rowdy, thieving, violent immigrants invaded our city in large numbers, the only fox I’d ever seen in the flesh was in a field in Cornwall sometime in the ‘90s: it was crouched amidst high grass about 20 yards away, staring at us warily. I pointed him out to my wife: as soon as we moved, it scarpered. We felt privileged to have seen it. 

Five or six years ago, I was astonished – nay, entranced – to watch a fox nonchalantly strolling past the Palm House in Kew Gardens and pass within three feet of me (giving me a sort of “Morning, squire!” glance as it did so). Visitors had all halted in their tracks and were busily bringing this phenomenon to the attention of companions. Snaps were snapped on cameras and cell-phones. Everyone was smiling at the unexpectedness of it all. 

Nowadays the little russet bastards stand in front gardens and stare back as if to say, “You got a problem, dickhead?”

Mid-summer bin nights are the worst, ensuring hours of furtive rustling as bin bags are ripped open and their contents strewn down front paths and pavements, interspersed with the standard noisy displays of bravado and violence (and, one presumes, girlfriends screeching “Leave it, Reynard - he’s not worf it!”). Sex appears to be confined to non-bin nights, but is, if anything, even louder.

There’s been inter-species violence as well – a neighbour’s pet rabbit suffered the equivalent of a fatal urban “stabbin’” last year. Last week, Greg Hands, the Conservative MP for Fulham and Chelsea told the Commons that fox attacks on his constituents were on the rise. Until the 1980s, local councils used to trap and shoot the animals. But our Environment Minister, Jim Paice (who he? Ed), has turned down demands to reclassify these verminous scavengers as vermin, while admitting that property owners are actually allowed to kill them: "Whilst the extermination of urban foxes or indeed rural ones is neither desirable or possible, problem foxes do need to be controlled… In urban areas that is the responsibility of the owner or occupier of the property who can use legal methods to cull or remove foxes."

If disposing of foxes is our problem, it makes one wonder exactly what our taxes - income and local - are actually being used for.

As I don’t fancy my chances of getting close enough to use a kitchen knife (I don’t think I could in any case, big citified softie that I am), and as the law won’t allow me to buy a gun, and as I wouldn’t know how to go about constructing a fox trap, I’m not quite sure what I’m supposed to do.  Besides, even if I could figure out how to catch one of the pilfering wretches, tree-huggers burst into compassionate tears at the thought of anyone releasing one of the furry fiends in a rural area (that’s cruel, apparently, because the little darlings get all disoriented – ah, bless!).

Experts (yes, them again) claim the number of urban foxes has remained stable for thirty years. This, of course, it what we non-experts term “bollocks”. The last decade has seen an explosion in numbers in our area (foxes, not experts) – I know, you see, because I live here, and possess fully functioning eyes and ears. In the unlikely event that the experts are right (on the “stopped clock” principle, obviously) then I can only assume that the Metropolis’s foxes have, using Morphic Resonance,  decided to move en masse to the more salubrious parts of West London (taking their lead, one presumes, from the muggers and thieves who regularly visit us from council estates in nearby Acton).

Expecting residents to patrol the streets with baseball bats (or cricket bats - but the temptation to start an impromptu game might prove too strong) in order to bludgeon a few of the little red beggars to death might appeal to the crazed vigilante lurking within all men  - but it’s not really practical, is it? Once started, we might begin to wonder what other problems we could solve employing the same method.

No, it’s really down to local councils to figure out how to take care of the problem. Which, of course, means it will remain unsolved. 


  1. How dare you! If we began to act against useless non-contributing scroungers the whole fabric of modern British society would begin to unravel…do you seriously want unemployed social workers rummaging in your bins at two in the morning…let alone having mutually consensual deeply caring non judgmental sex in your back garden. Fiend!
    Wednesday, March 23, 2011 - 12:23 PM

  2. Members of the upper classcollege dining club at the start of Decline & Fall killed a fox by pelting it with empty champagne bottles. If your part of London is as desirable as you claim, perhaps this could be an option?
    Wednesday, March 23, 2011 - 02:16 PM

  3. Forget about the fox [although I did once see what they could do to a couple of fairly large Barnacle Geese].

    No. it's the Grey Wagtail [a riparian avian] that you have to worry about. Perhaps they don't visit the metropolis? Every spring one of them arrives, perches on a tree outside my bedroom and dive-bombs my window from dawn to dusk for about 14-days. It means sleep after sunrise is out of the question; ditto, daytime siestas and horizontal reading sessions. It leaves disgusting mucus trails and my surly window cleaner demands extra payment.

    Every year my elderly plumber volunteers to come round and blow its brains out with one his guns. I checked this out with the council once who said that I would be prosecuted and that I must get in touch with the RSPB who said I should put up a large poster of a raptor in the window which I duly did [a Bald Headed Eagle clutching the American flag, since you asked]. This infuriated the Wagtail who started coming in like a Ju87.

    The answer is to cover your window with newsprint and sellotape and make your room look like a squat. This stops the attacks, but not the triumphant chirruping from the tree. It's a sinister and humiliating situation. The Council and the RSPB are worshippers of the Great Onan.

    No, the fox ain't nuthin' but a thing.
    Thursday, March 24, 2011 - 05:31 PM

  4. Unfortunately, Guy, the only neighbours who could afford that much champagne, are the employers of the leaf-blowing gardeners mentioned in my previous blog: perhaps we could get away with Asti Spumante?

    Raptor, I feel for you – honestly! The wagtail isn’t trying hard enough. Last year, a pigeon smashed into the glass panel above our garden doors and dropped down dead on the spot. There was a surprising amount of blood. It was bin night, so we wrapped it up and stuck it in one of our big plastic bin bags. During the night a fox ripped open the bag to get at the corpse (or perhaps it was a social worker). Have you thought about getting a cat? The wagtail would undoubtedly choose someone else to pick on.
    Saturday, March 26, 2011 - 08:07 PM