Thursday, 12 April 2012

The (not so) Fantastic Mr Fox

Chat on the radio early this morning was about increasing numbers and audacity of foxes in urban areas.

One presenter was recalling the times when occasionally you would see one and it would run off when spotted. This morning he was about to get into his taxi and the fox is standing almost next to him.  Direct eye contact produces only a look that says, “yeah...and ?”

People have been talking about these perceived shifts for years and not just in relation to an animal most notably associated with Britain.  I have always particularly enjoyed the footage of bears falling into and knocking over bins in the northern States and Canada.....mind you, they were not my bins.

Anyway, I don’t need any of that.  I have enough trouble with the indigenous wildlife in Somerset.

I'm reasonably confident that the badgers have been excluded but - as my badly punned tweets about Herb N. Fox indicate – other problems continue.

One of the remarkable things is that I can be reasonably sure what is forever digging holes in my lawn.  I've not only seen them wandering around on my patio at 4:00 in the morning, I've almost tripped over the blessed animals outside my front gate mid-evening in broad daylight.

It’s true that I’m lucky enough to live right on the edge of a rural town but, at the risk of seeming hackneyed, it never used to be like this.

Elsewhere in the world it’s often said that these unwelcome encroachments are largely a product of global warming and other deleterious human impact on the environment.   Ironically, it’s probably also helped by the compensating reaction of many - that of greater empathy with and support for our wildlife.

Personally, I have always been an animal lover but I must confess that my goodwill towards foxes is about to run out.  As for seagulls,  well they fell off the Christmas list two or three years ago.

It made me wonder this morning, of course, how much of this will and can reasonably be attributed to eight years in force of the Hunting Act. Prior to 2004 one estimate put the number of foxes killed by registered hunts each year at between 21,000 and 25,000, which in turn was said to be about 5% of overall fox mortality per annum.

There was also evidence to indicate substantial regional variation with hunting said to account for as many as 50% of mortalities in Wales - for reasons unknown.

A couple of years ago we were plagued (ok – slight over-statement) by a couple of rats for a few weeks.  A fox cub was witnessed “arresting” one of them.

This delighted my daughter (as do my references now to “playing tag with Basil around the garden”).  She was also reasonably pleased when the survivor seemingly died of loneliness, though ironically had come to rest under the rabbit shed.

But they are gone and the foxes’ work is done. I wish they’d now clear off back to the comparative safety of the nearby countryside - or even Wales. I hear they're still a few short..

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