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Foxes in the Garden: Frequent Questions

By: Dr Gareth Evans - Updated: 17 Oct 2010 | comments*Discuss
 
Foxes Rubbish Bins Deterrence Chemical

For many people, a fox in the garden is a wonderful sight – but not everyone agrees, so it isn’t a universally welcome one and even if you’re a dedicated fox fan, their presence on your own back lawn may not be entirely without its problems.

Beautiful to look at, the Red Fox can also be noisy and destructive and have a potentially devastating effect on the rest of your wildlife visitors, not to mention any pet rabbits or guinea pigs you might keep.

However, it is possible to enjoy having foxes in your garden, without having to pay the price of piles of furry corpses, or a lawn so dug up that it resembles a battlefield from the First World War. It’s not necessarily an easy balance to strike, but it can be done; the key lies in understanding a little about foxes and why they do what they do.

How can I stop them raiding my rubbish?

Unfortunately, once they’ve discovered that our bins contain all sorts of easy meals, it can be difficult to persuade them to stop – especially in those areas where rubbish has to be put out for collection in bags. The rise of wheelie-bins has helped, but the introduction of multiple bins and fortnightly collections in some parts of the country has caused a few problems even so – Mrs Fox especially can be very determined when she has a young family to feed!

The only really effective way to keep foxes out of your rubbish is to keep it in a bin with a lid that can’t be simply knocked off. The sort of elastic 'bungee' straps with hooks sold for bicycles are great for this job; hook one over the lid and onto the handles – this can work with wheelie-bins too – and although it makes dumping your rubbish take just a moment or two longer, you won’t have to put up with it strewn all over your garden.

I don’t mind the foxes, but can I keep them out of a particular part of the garden?

You might want to think about using some of the chemical repellents that are available around the area you want to protect, but if your garden is fairly small to start with, this may have the effect of keeping them away altogether.

Perhaps a better solution would be to buy one of the motion-sensitive devices that attach to a hosepipe and set it up so that it will only squirt the fox if it approaches too closely to a particular spot. It’s like having an automatic high-pressure water pistol – it’ll give foxes a bit of a surprise, but it won’t hurt anything more than their dignity! If you line it up properly, your fox should soon learn to stay away from the protected area, but shouldn’t be scared off completely.

My grandfather used Renardine to keep foxes away; Can you still get it?

The short answer is no; although this substance was a favourite with generations of gardeners – and highly successful, by all accounts – it is no longer legal to buy or own. However, there are other chemical deterrents that many people have found do a good job, but be warned – tackling foxes with these sorts of measures can take a fair bit of time and patience.

Can my dog/cat catch anything from them?

Foxes can often carry a whole range of diseases and parasites, including fleas, roundworms, tapeworms and contagious mange mites – possibly along with Parvovirus and Weil’s Disease (leptospirosis) too.

Fortunately, routine vaccination and worming is usually more than adequate to prevent this becoming a problem, but if there are lots of foxes in your area, or your pet is very young, old, or ill, it’s worth asking your vet’s advice just to be on the safe side.

How can I keep my kids’ rabbits safe?

Foxes are agile and cunning predators, so hutches and pens need to be strong, secure and chew-proof! The best advice is never to leave any small pets to graze unsupervised – fascinating though foxes are, first and foremost they are swift and efficient killing machines.

There are foxes in the area and I’d love them to visit – any ideas?

If there are foxes in your local area which are already visiting other gardens, then probably all you need to do is wait a bit, and sooner or later they’ll find you. Leaving an area undisturbed – particularly around the edges of your garden may encourage them to explore this 'new' territory, but it probably isn’t a good idea to think about leaving food about to entice them – not unless you have really understanding neighbours who share your passion for foxes!

These days, as natural habitats have become increasingly disturbed, the ever-wily fox has recognised the value of the relatively tranquil alternate territory offered by our gardens – and has lost little time in putting it to good use. You’ve got to admire their ingenuity!

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