Problems with Foxes
Disease in foxes
Weil's Disease: Firstly, foxes are not considered by law as Vermin. This categorisation gives one the impression that foxes carry diseases that can easily pass on to man. Since 1990 - 1996 there have been 85 cases of Weil's disease in humans.
Whilst it is possible for foxes to carry the infection their role in human disease is likely to be very small if at all. Transmission is usually through contact with the urine of infected animals (usually rats) or water contaminated with urine. Dr. Robert Smith at CDSC could not recall any cases with which foxes were known or thought to be associated.
Toxacariasis: Transmission to humans is through ingestion of viable eggs from contaminated faeces. Eggs require 10 - 14 days maturation in soil before they become infective and are killed by desiccation.
Human cases can range from a symptomatic infection to eye infection. Humans are not carriers and infection is treatable once identified. Simple hygiene precautions such as worming both cats and dogs regularly and the disposal of their faeces by burning or throwing in the garbage.
Professor Stephen Harris at Bristol University states in his book 'Urban Foxes' that; Fox cubs by three to four months of age have developed a degree of immunity to roundworm.
Toxoplasmosis Is a Parasitic Disease caused by the Protozoan Toxoplasmosis gondi.
Protozoan being a single-celled microscopic animal. The disease can be found in almost all warm blooded birds and animals, but the only animal that Toxoplasmosis oocysts (A cyst containing a cell) can reproduce is the domestic cat.
The oocysts are released in the cats faeces.
Studies in rats have shown that rats infected with Toxoplasmosis do not fear cat pheromones even though Rodents instinctively shy away from the smells of a cat. So it would seem that for the parasite to complete its life cycle the infected rat would have to be caught by a cat.
What better way than to infect the part of the brain that would normally shy away from this and make life harder for the cat to catch the rat! So the cat catches and kills the rat and eats it and the life cycle is complete and ready to start again when the cat goes toilet.
But what happens if it is a fox that catches the rat. It would seem that the Toxoplasmosis goes through the same stages and infects the part of the brain that is usually associated with fear and the fight or flight instinct.
Whilst the fox can't pass on this disease, it is left with the condition none the less. However some foxes in good health and with a good immune system can fight this successfully.
Symptoms we have noticed in Toxo positive foxes are as follows: No fear and no real signs of aggression, circling, head pressing, food dangling from the foxes mouth whilst the fox seems completely unaware of this. Walking up to an object and then just standing there, seemingly unaware of the fact that if it moved to the left or right it could pass the object in the way. Following feet but unaware of things going on above knee level, teeth grinding and in extreme cases fitting.
With all the Toxo infected foxes we have dealt with over the years none were suitable for release back to the wild as the condition left them almost like a domestic dog.
You can not catch Toxoplasmosis from a fox unless you was to eat a fox that was infected with Toxoplasmosis.
The Wild Mammal (Protection) Act 1996 protects most mammals from a variety of cruel acts which are intended to cause unnecessary suffering.
When a fox has been captured the Protection of Animals Act 1911
can also be used to prosecute those people who ill treat the fox.
Poison: There is no poison that can be legally used on foxes. Use of a poison to kill foxes would lead to either a large fine or imprisonment.
Gassing: Again the use of any gas to kill foxes is illegal.
Spring Traps: Can not be used against foxes and traps with teeth have been illegal in this country since 1954 for all animals.
Free Running Snare: May be legally used to catch foxes but is subject to many restrictions. In urban areas its doubtful that these restrictions can be met.
Self tightening Snare: Is illegal
Advocating the Red Fox
Whilst advocating both town and country foxes our Society realises that foxes can and do cause problems.
Problems can range from householders having their flower beds dug up, foxes fouling on their lawns and setting up home under garden sheds. More serious problems can include foxes taking livestock and pets i.e. rabbits and guinea pigs.
Hopefully the articles on this page will help resolve many of the problems mentioned and also allay any concerns regarding health issues.
Foxes and Cats
Whilst our society would not be stupid enough to suggest that foxes will never kill cats what we can say is there has never been a reported case of this happening.
Usually foxes and cats have a mutual respect for one another.
The time of year when calls peak are usually around March / April / May. People will view a fox chasing a cat and wrongfully assume that the fox is looking to kill the cat to feed her cubs. What is happening however that whilst cubs are still very young and underground cats will show a very unhealthy interest in them.
If the cat was to get to the young cubs it would kill them. A vixen looking after her cubs will chase cats away from the earth.
Calls again then peak usually around July where householders are claiming that a pack of foxes is going around terrorising cats. Since foxes do not hunt in packs we can assume its a family of cubs learning their way around their territory. On discovering a cat they tease the cat, in the countryside the badger is usually the one that the foxes will tease, one would never believe that the young cubs were looking to kill the badger!
Once the cubs have met with the ferocity of a cat they learn quickly to avoid them.
If a fox finds a dead cat on the road it will take it away to eat. Any person observing this will assume that the fox has killed the cat. We have observed on many occasions foxes carrying marrow bones, never do we conclude the fox has killed the cow!
If more than one fox is present when this cat has been discovered, and since foxes are so selfish with their food, an argument over who's it is will commence. Remembering on many occasions that the police have been called out thinking someone's being attacked and killed because the foxes are so vocal, it is easy to assume that the foxes are killing the cat since that's what it sounds like.
Foxes & Pets
If a fox can get into a chicken run or rabbit hutch then it will. Often people who have lost their chickens or rabbit to a fox for the first time and having never received problems from foxes before will describe this fox has a rogue one.
If you have pets or livestock housed outside in an insecure run then it is just luck that has stopped any foxes getting in not because now you have a mensa fox visiting.
Foxes can scale six foot fences and can easily squeeze through gaps of about four inch square and they are brilliant diggers.
Chicken runs should be made fox proof, wire over the top and underneath. Weld mesh is by far the better wire to use than chicken wire. Not only can chicken wire be pulled out of shape easily but foxes can actually bite through it.
Rabbit hutches again should be secure, and the same applies regarding the wire to use. Most rabbit hutches have a little piece of wood on the front that when pushed up the doors swings open. To a fox this is so easy, all hutches should be made so only a person can get in and not an animal. A simple bolt on the door will prevent this. It may also be worth covering the rabbit up at night even if the hutch is secure.
One can only imagine the sheer terror for the rabbit that can not run away and is looking at a fox trying to get in. If we can keep foxes in, and we can and do, why can’t people with livestock keep them out!
Remember, if you lose livestock or pets to foxes, its not the foxes fault but yours!
One of the most common complaints we receive is from people wanting advice on how to discourage foxes from fouling on their lawns and digging up the flower beds.
One way to discourage foxes from digging would be to avoid using bone meal around the garden.
When foxes find an abundance of food, rather than waste it they bury it. When they come across the smell of bone meal around plants they assume wrongly that food has been cached so dig down.
Also avoid putting food out for birds or hedgehogs as any food source will be taken readily by the foxes.
If you suspect that foxes are living under your shed and you don't want to block up the holes before they have gone please do the following
Step 1) To ensure foxes are using the underneath of your shed make sure to locate all the holes. Foxes invariably have two holes, a front door and a back door if you like.
Step 2) On discovering all the holes and on the basis there are two holes get two bundles of rags. Loosely block both holes with the rags. If the rags haven't moved for two - three days, you can safely assume that nothing is going into the hole and nothing is coming out. It is therefore safe to fill in.
It is often thought that the Sarcoptic mite (Sarcoptes scabeii) that causes mange in foxes, dogs, squirrels, hedgehogs is the same mite that causes Scabies in people; this is not so.
Whilst Canine Mange, often wrongly called fox mange can bring out an allergic reaction in people, the mite needs specific hosts to feed and breed on.
If dogs come into contact with mange they can usually be easily treated at the vets.
There are over 100 difference species of the Mange Mite and most are host specific.