You can shoot them, but poisoning is illegal! In response to a surge in foxes terrorising residents, a London council has re-issued its advice leaflet on how to deal with the urban menace, and it’s remarkably strident compared to the rest of London.
Conservative-controlled Wandsworth has responded to a Facebook petition by residents calling for free dustbins from the council to prevent foxes from tearing open bin-bags for scrap by reminding residents that they can kill the foxes themselves without legal recrimination. The useful guide lists approved methods including snares, shooting and traps, either with advice and warnings on keeping within the bounds of the law, reports the Daily Telegraph.
Much of the advice related to the safety of other people and animals during the extermination. The guidance points out that it is illegal to leave poison for foxes, as it also kills pets and other animals indiscriminately, and gassing is also forbidden. However, as long as the litter is also found and killed, and steps are taken to secure the safety of people in the neighbourhood, one may shoot a fox in Wandsworth.
For the majority of residents who don’t keep a gun powerful enough to dispatch the pest readily to hand, help does exist in the shape of specialist urban pest controllers. The Daily Mail newspaper reported the comments of one professional fox shooter in March of this year, who uses a .22 calibre silenced air-rifle to silently dispatch the animals in built-up areas, a service for which he charges over £300.
Tom Keightley, 56, said: “I tend to shoot them because it’s quicker and kinder. Some people trap them first and then shoot them but they might be in the trap for hours, which isn’t very humane. Most of the time I shoot from one of the bedroom windows and they don’t know I’m coming”.
For those who are happy to wait for fox populations to decline more slowly from starvation and attrition, the Wandsworth flyer also has plenty of advice. It urges residents to only put rubbish out on collection day, to stop up holes under garden sheds where foxes like to breed, and not to feed them.
The issue of urban foxes has long been a hot topic in London, as councils have resisted culls in the aftermath of repeated attacks against pets and children over the past couple of years. In 2013, a five-week-old baby was hospitalised after it was bitten on the face and had a finger ripped off by a fox which had gone into a bedroom in Bromley, South-East London.
At the time a family member said: “The fox was trying to drag the baby out of the house. Hayley [the child’s mother] kicked the fox and it ran away. The baby was covered with blood and his hand was badly damaged. The fox was shaking the baby by his hand in its teeth and hitting him off the door frame. There was blood everywhere.”