After the recent attack on a baby by a fox a great deal of media hype has occurred with regards to the subject, much of it quite hysterical.
Whilst the attack on the baby is terrible for the family, our sympathy goes to them and we wish the little one a swift recovery, it is incredibly rare for this kind of occurrence. As Professor Steven Harris recently said in an article for the Guardian with regards to the twins attacked in Hackney in 2010:
“Their injuries were unlike anything I have ever seen from foxes. Yet despite being such an atypical event, it is repeatedly referred to in the press. In comparison, the seven children and five adults killed by dogs since 2005, and the hundreds more disfigured, receive far less coverage.”
According to the professor, who is an expert on urban foxes, contrary to the reports from press and politicians, the numbers of foxes are not increasing:
“In many cities fox numbers have declined due to sarcoptic mange, an extremely unpleasant and fatal disease. In Bristol, the fox population is still recovering from the 1994 mange outbreak, which killed more than 95%.”
That we are seeing foxes more often in the cities is probably more due to our habits of leaving food available in the form of rubbish on the streets, not any increase in populations. Improved personal responsibility for our waste would be a far better way of controlling the foxes behavior than the culls being called for by certain politicians and media outlets.
We asked Iolo Williams to do an piece for us about foxes and he gives some very sensible advice, his words back the opinions of many experts. If we leave our rubbish out then we will attract foxes to our gardens, we should not be encouraging any wild animals to feed from the hand, it is risky and we are putting ourselves in danger. Foxes are shy animals, the attack is very abnormal behaviour and we should not scapegoat all foxes for the actions of one.
Some final words from Professor Steven Harris:
“They are as big as Alsatians and getting bigger. Their numbers are increasing and are out of control. They foul our gardens, they rip cats apart, they are getting bolder. It is simply a matter of time before they kill a baby. City-dwellers cannot let toddlers play in the garden for fear they will be mauled or killed. It’s incredible how much hysteria the British press can generate about such a small, and largely inoffensive, animal as the fox.”