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What are we going to do about urban foxes?

Suggestions on a postcard: we need to solve this scourge of our cities

18 July 2015

9:00 AM

18 July 2015

9:00 AM

Forget about the countryside. When is the government going to do something about the vulpine creatures wreaking havoc in central London? The situation is now so out of control, it’s time the Prime Minister convened a meeting of Cobra to discuss the ginger menace.

I’m talking, of course, about the horde of SNP MPs who’ve invaded Westminster. Actually, I’m not, but I couldn’t resist that gag. No, foxes are the problem. I don’t actually keep a chicken coop in my back garden in Acton — and, for that reason, I’m spared the sight of my beloved poultry lying in a pool of blood with their heads bitten off. But I still have a long list of complaints.

First, there’s the appalling sound they make, particularly during the mating season. When I first heard one of these vile beasts at full cry, I ran upstairs in a panic, convinced that an intruder had broken into my house and was now torturing one of my children. The noise of a howling fox is uncannily like that of a human child in pain. It’s guaranteed to produce a momentary spasm of reflexive alarm even when you’ve heard the same bloodcurdling shriek every night for the past ten years.


Then there’s the threat they pose to domestic animals. I used to have a black, short-haired cat called Trixie which I rescued from an animal shelter and loved almost as much as my own children. Then one day she simply disappeared. In the months that followed, as I trawled the neighbouring streets searching for her and became acquainted with the local cat-loving community, I discovered that I wasn’t alone. West London is in the throes of an epidemic of missing cats. Either there’s been an influx of residents with a penchant for dining on domestic pets, or they’re being killed by a vicious, red-haired predator. I know who my money’s on.

But the thing I mind most of all is the havoc they wreak with the rubbish. I’ve appointed myself the Litter Nazi of my street — someone’s got to do it — and I spend Wednesday mornings walking from one end to the other picking up all the food waste that’s been strewn about by the foxes the night before. It’s a losing battle and in west London most of the streets have been turned into festering wastelands of rotting food, thanks to our furry friends.

When I complain about this, people often respond by saying there’s a simple solution — put your food waste in a wheelie bin. But the problem isn’t me, obviously. I place all my organic rubbish in the special hard plastic containers with sealable lids that the council has provided for precisely that purpose. It’s my neighbours that are the problem. Every household in my street has been given one of these green boxes, but only about half of them use them. The rest simply bag up their food waste in plastic bin liners and leave it on the pavement. They might as well stick a label on the front saying ‘Bon appétit, Mr Fox.’ Providing every household with a wheelie bin would make little difference.

No, the solution is to kill the revolting creatures. In the 1980s, Auberon Waugh suggested starting a Shepherd’s Bush hunt that would convene on Brook Green — which gives you some idea of how long the problem has been around. Not a bad idea, and I would happily volunteer to become the Master of Hounds, but it’s unlikely to be allowed, particularly now that the government has bottled out of even modifying the hunting ban.

A more practical solution would be to allow residents’ associations to appoint public-spirited individuals as local ‘fox exterminators’ and let them loose with high-powered air rifles. At present, it’s illegal for members of the public to kill foxes. You need to be a licensed professional, accredited by the British Pest Control Association. I’ve looked into it and these gun–toting wide boys charge upwards of £50 per corpse. Just clearing out my back garden — which seems to double up as a fox brothel every night — would cost thousands of pounds. Crazy waste of money when my three sons and I could clear it with a couple of Webley .22s in half an hour.

What’s the answer, dear reader? Can one purchase a fox-killing biological agent on the dark web? Shall I blast them with the ear-splitting guitar solos of fox-loving rock star Brian May? I’ve heard lion poo can work, although that’s not cheap either. Answers on an email postcard, please — tobyyoung@mac.com.

Toby Young is associate editor of The Spectator.


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