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Dr Ian Plummer

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Lawn Care
Fox Control

A club in the South of England has a desperate problem with fox damage - all suggestions (probably tried) but gratefully received.

The Red Fox, vulpes vulpes

1 The Problem
2 The Benefits
3 Fox Control
  3.1 Discouraging Foxes
    3.1.1 Removing Attractants
    3.1.2 Using Deterrents
  3.2 Trapping Foxes
  3.3 Killing Foxes
    3.3.1 Shooting
    3.3.2 Poisoning
    3.3.3 Lethal Traps
    3.3.4 Gassing
    3.3.5 Free Running Snare
    3.3.6 Self-tightening Snare
4 Legal Issues

Comments

1. The Problem

Red Foxes (Vulpes vulpes) damage croquet lawns by fouling and digging. They will also chew croquet equipment, e.g. pegs and corner markers, and move them from their intended positions. They can cause breaches in/under existing fencing. Foxes are  allegedly vectors for disease – foot and mouth, rabies, mange, fleas, parasitic worms such as Trichinella and Toxocara, etc. They may attack and kill domestic pets1. They also cause disturbance from their raucous screaming.

2. The Benefits

Foxes have no benefits apart from removing a rodent problem and looking rural.

3 Fox Control

3.1 Discouraging Foxes

The best source of information on discouraging foxes can be found on ‘pro-fox’ sites. They naturally have an interest in humane ways of alleviating the problems without recourse to lethal force. For example:

http://www.foxproject.org.uk/
http://www.workingforwildlife.org.uk/reserves/fox.htm [domain deceased]
http://www.nfws.org.uk/
http://www.thefoxwebsite.org/urbanfoxes/

Foxes are territorial, using scent to mark their domain, but they will only regularly return to a site if there is an attractant. They can be deterred from a site by using noise-makers, strong smells, etc.

3.1.1 Removing Attractants

Food. Foxes are highly adaptable solitary hunters and live mostly on earthworms, rodents, beetles, rabbits and carrion. Obviously the diet varies considerably depending on the local environment. In urban areas this includes wheelie-bins, litter and rubbish. There are also people who put out food for foxes. Where animal lovers start feeding foxes, they are then surprised at the boom in the rat population!

All sources of food which can be eliminated should be. Avoid fish, blood or bone meal based fertiliser on your lawn as the foxes will be attracted to this since its smells like buried food and thus encourages them to dig. Animal-proof waste bins can be used instead of bin bags. It has been suggested that worm killing makes a croquet lawn less desirable for foxes. It was also perhaps cynically suggested that a nearby area should be made more attractive to foxes! Foxes are territorial and if a viable void appears it will be filled by another fox.

Environment. Foxes look for places to make their dens or rest. Typically spaces under sheds or thick shrubberies are popular and should be made fox-unfriendly: voids under sheds should be blocked and shrubberies made more public.

3.1.2 Using Deterrents

Strong smelling substances are disliked by foxes. Traditionally creosote, diesel and petrol were suggested but these are hazards in themselves. Many garden centres sell a range of repellents to deter a variety of animals and successful use requires persistence.

“[In reference to foxes] Having extensively tested every repellent on the market, we regard the most effective products as "Scoot" and "Get Off My Garden". These are safe, proprietary mammal repellents and are available from garden centres and hardware stores.

Get Off My Garden is a general purpose repellent, which may be used at ground level or underground and which can be applied directly onto growing plants. Scoot is effective as a foliage or lawn spray where fouling or digging is taking place.

[original link now bust]

The London Borough of Barking and Dagenham have a useful sheet on fox deterents:

Scent Repellents

IMPORTANT: Renardine is no longer available and should not be used.

Scoot is an entirely non-toxic spray and carries only a mild ammonium smell. Its effects are similar to those of Renardine but they are achieved differently. The product reacts when an animal scent marks by urinating or fouling onto it. The chemical reaction causes the 'wrong' scent to arise and any territorial animal will suppose another animal is threatening the territory by over- scenting its own scent. It can be applied directly onto vegetation and is particularly suitable for lawns as it can be applied inexpensively over a wide area. Works well against fouling, urinating and scent marking.

Stay Off is similar to Scoot and is used in the same way.

Get Off My Garden are entirely non-toxic jelly granules that carry only a mild citronella smell. Its effects are similar to those of Renardine, but it is shorter lived, particularly in bright sunlight or in wet conditions. A good alternative to Renardine as it may be used close to human accommodation.

Wash Off and Get Off is a non-toxic citronella scented spray that neutralises scent marking and urine smells. It is particularly useful against persistent fouling and, unlike most other repellents, may be used on hard surfaces.

water scarecrow

Electric fencing works well, and does no one any harm, a small mains unit or one which runs of a car battery would suffice. For example http://www.google.com/search?q=electric+fencing+foxes

Noise Generators have variable performance:

Not all methods of deterrence involve chemicals. During experiments carried out in association with Greenwich University, we found ultrasonic devices broadly ineffective, but found a water driven gadget, called "Scarecrow", very effective.”
[original link now bust]

The Water Scarecrow (image right) is a gadget that reacts to heat and movement in the garden and shoots water in the direction of that movement. It can be turned on and off as necessary and is also effective against cats. It frightens the animals away without harming them. (Cost ~£60).

UPDATE: November 2008 - a clone of the 'Scarecrow' was on sale in the UK for £15 - link. This offer/link will likely expire quickly.

3.2 Trapping Foxes

fox trapTrapping urban foxes is legal but now considered to be near useless and cruel. Because foxes are territorial, as soon as one fox is removed another will take its place. Urban foxes do not have the skills to survive in the countryside and starve to death. London boroughs tried trapping in 1940’s and the foxes still thrived hence the practice was abandoned in the 1970s.

For those who have an interest in trapping see, for instance: http://www.foxtrap.co.uk/.

3.3 Killing Foxes

Care has to be taken to ensure that the fox is the victim, not next door’s poodle! Also be prepared for adverse publicity as many people enjoy seeing foxes around their houses. Again because of the territorial nature of foxes, be prepared for successors to move into the vacated area.

3.3.1 Shooting

Shooting foxes remains legal. It is an offence however to use a firearm close to a highway or near inhabited properties. Professional marksmen can be engaged to remove foxes – see for instance:

Harman's marksmen lure their prey by imitating the sound of rabbits to attract the fox's attention. They then shine a light and shoot between the reflections of the animal's eyes. "We have to do it secretly, only telling the client and the police, because otherwise we would have demonstrations by animal rights people," said Harman, 63. "The people who call us in are at their wits' end. Many say they always opposed fox culls but now understand why it has to be done."
http://www.webtribe.net/~watchdog/watchdog90.htm [link dead]

3.3.2 Poisoning

There is no poison that can be legally used on foxes. Use of a poison to kill foxes would lead to either a large fine or imprisonment.

3.3.3 Lethal Traps

Spring Traps cannot be used against foxes and traps with teeth have been illegal in this country since 1954 for all animals.

3.3.4 Gassing

The use of any gas to kill foxes is illegal.

3.3.5 Free Running Snare

Snares may be legally used to catch foxes but is subject to many restrictions. In urban areas it’s doubtful that these restrictions can be met. It is an offence to set snares for foxes in a situation where a dog, cat or protected animal may be killed or injured.

3.3.6 Self-tightening Snare

Illegal.

4 Legal Issues

Any method used to deal with foxes must not involve unnecessary cruelty. The Wild Mammal (Protection) Act 1996 protects most mammals from a variety of cruel acts which are intended to cause unnecessary suffering. When a fox has been captured (trapped) the Protection of Animals Act 1911 can also be used to prosecute those people who ill treat the fox.

 

See also

"Urban Foxes" (PDF) from www.naturalengland.org.uk


Comments

Robert Morgan writes

We used to experience large scale problems with foxes digging up the croquet lawns. We put this down to the odour created by rotting grass clippings used to set the croquet hoops. The fox smells the decay, associates this with an ideal habitat for worms, and hunts accordingly. We had over a dozen hoops excavated only hours before an international tournament. When we rotate our hoop positions we now replace the soil around the old ones, thereby removing the smell of decaying organic material. The fox problem appears to have disappeared. We cross our fingers.

John Bryant writes

I have been operating a humane fox deterrence in London and the south east for ten years (Motto: 'No harm done'). The best device for protecting lawns, bowling greens, golf greens etc. is the water-squirting 'Scarecrow' featured on your site. I sold around 300 to clients with almost 100 per cent success, unlike so-called 'ultrasonic' repellers which in my experience are totally useless.

John Bryant, Humane Urban Wildlife Deterrence. www.jbryant.co.uk

Charles Waterfield writes

We had problems with crows and a fox at Middlesbrough until we designed and made simple mesh hoop-hole covers. This was published in the Gazette Issue 311 Dec 2007 with photos. It's no great chore taking them out and replacing them - repairing damaged holes is much worse!

Dr W.T.W.Morgan writes

Commercial smelling deterrents and a noise generator were ineffective.  On the suggestion of a gamekeeper, I dribbled human, male, urine round the edge of the plot (not on the grass) several times and there has been no recurrence of the problem after some five weeks.


1. http://news.scotsman.com/topics.cfm?tid=586&id=797652004 [link dead]

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Updated 26.iii.14
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