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A safe guide to feeding foxes

The Red Fox - vulpes vulpes

Feeding urban foxes has been a controversial subject in the past.

The anti feeding camp claim that feeding foxes creates pest issues like individuals getting too habituated and tame or foxes apparently attacking people and eating pets. They also claim it encourages foxes to enter houses potentially eating babies!

The other side equally claims that feeding foxes are beneficial for the wildlife/people relationship, also people feeding actually maintain more of a healthy urban fox population.

Because foxes regularly fed are more likely to receive treatment for sickness and diseases like ‘mange’ and these views need to be factored in when responsibly deciding to encourage foxes to feed on your property.

For the fox’s sake.

Urbanised since the 1930s

Thriving in an urban landscape

The Eurasian red fox

…..Is easily recognisable as an icon of British wildlife, it’s a member of the canid family the same family as pet dogs but is really nearer a dog and cat hybrid, it has a typical dog appearance, appealing face, large ears and eyes, and typical canine looking nose, it has a sleek, slender body with long legs that gives it agility and sure-footedness that closely rivals that of a cat and it’s the only canid that can retract its claws just like Mr. Tiddles.

Adaptable and resourceful, this medium-sized omnivore has used its keen intelligence and behaviour to spread across the globe.

Should I be feeding foxes?

We believe encouraging foxes into your garden has many beneficial effects from pest control to a wonderful encounter you ordinarily wouldn't see, but it has to be done responsibly and in the best interests of the animal.

When deciding whether to feed the local fox in your garden or not? Have a think to yourself, why do you want to encourage wildlife to your garden/private spaces? Our gardens are a valuable oasis resource that wildlife will be already using.

Let us be sensible about feeding foxes or any wildlife.

The urban red fox has been living among us since the 1930s they don’t just survive in suburbia they thrive and our towns and cities are home to an estimated 150,000 foxes and they sensibly don’t need our help by artificial feeding. Except for perhaps during the deepest winter, when times are tougher on all of our wildlife.

Usual suburbia prey for foxes are all rodents and foxes are the main predator of the rat, doing humans a service keeping rodent numbers down, they will also take birds including town pigeons, a fox will scavenge food and provide another service of clearing up roadkill and this is actually where the myth that foxes routinely take pet cats originates, which is not true, any observations of the fox eating cats are more likely to be victims of the road which are the main killer of pet cats.

They will also eat vegetables, fruit, and insects, pretty much anything foxes really aren't fussy and this is the fundamental key to their success.

Different organisations from welfare to government have differing views on encouraging foxes to stay in your garden for a wide viewpoint.

We have looked through the different issues and attempt to impart some common sense in the decision to feed foxes or not.

What are the main possible issues around feeding foxes?

  • Neighbour dispute - Foxes will choose a den site near productive feeding sites, please consider your immediate neighbours try to gauge their views to foxes and wildlife visiting their gardens.

By feeding you are encouraging the fox to hang about longer than it usually might without an ample food source. Are your neighbours likely to react badly to fox poo on their lawn or items buried in their flower beds and plant pots?

It is important not to overfeed foxes as they will remove food items and bury(cache) food items to claim when times are tougher, your neighbours may not like this behaviour and call in pest control that will probably trap and kill your fox.

Remember what we said earlier they don’t need your food so use foodstuff they will struggle to take away and cache, using pet food, nuts, fruits and possibly tasty treats like peanut butter and cheese, this will get you the best view of a visiting fox while discouraging caching behaviour.

  • Never encourage foxes to your back door, or attempt to tame or hand-feed - This is very irresponsible and likely to cause the fox to suffer at some point. We often see on social media wonderful close encounters of fox feeders hand-feeding their local fox, while on the surface this looks very benign and wonderful, which any close encounter for anybody interested in wildlife is a dream event please think again, while it is fine for you and whilst the fox is at your property, but what about when your fox tries the same behaviour with Mr smith four doors down that has a house rabbit running around or Mrs Jones who doesn't like wildlife, instead of a wonderful experience your fox is shot or poisoned, labeled as a problem fox and that would be your fault so just don’t do it, no matter how tempting the opportunity.

Enjoy wildlife but do so responsibly, the welfare of the animal has to be of top priority and you will have many years of wonderful experiences and encounters.

  • Question? if I should be encouraging foxes to my garden? While getting close to a wild fox is an amazing experience for you and your family, will your neighbours agree? Ask yourself am I going to cause neighbourly conflict because they have a perfectly manicured garden, or have they any pets that might be on the menu for an opportunistic fox, like poultry, birds or small furry animals. They are likely to want rid of any foxes in the local area, factor this in or you may be just sentencing your fox to death.

If by encouraging foxes to my garden, will they be at risk of persecution, harm or likely to encounter an angry neighbour? If you answer yes to any of the above, please reconsider.

Foxes should be shot with a camera not a gun

Feeding your garden wildlife is an easy way to get closer to nature, and when done responsibly, can help your local foxes and badgers to thrive.

What can I feed foxes to keep them healthy?

Remember, you are not feeding to impact their daily foraging behaviour so only enough food for a few minutes of foraging and then the fox must be allowed to move on across its territory to find other more suitable food.

Tinned pet food is a great supplement to feed together with kibble, other foodstuffs like unsalted peanuts, fruit, cooked or raw meat, low in salt kitchen scraps and cheese all can be offered in small amounts.

©2017 by Yorkshire Animal Welfare Society.