Wednesday, 13 February 2013

Say no to culling urban foxes

The recent attack on a young baby by a fox made major headlines this week, but not because it is a common problem, but in fact the opposite as it is quite rare. Whilst it is easy to understand the reaction of the distressed parents I was more than disturbed by the over-reaction of London Mayor Boris Johnson.

According to tonight's issue of the Evening Standard a spokesman for the Mayor has agreed to meet the family and raise the question of a cull with the Department of the Environment. He is quoted as saying that Borough leaders should "take a firm lead in assessing what action is needed to tackle growing concern about urban foxes".

There are estimated to be upwards of 30,000 foxes living in the London area amongst several million people yet such attacks are quite rare. In contrast the Daily Telegraph (9th August 2012)reported that:

There were almost 6,450 hospital admissions for dog bites and attacks in the year to April 2012, up from 4,611 four years earlier.
Around one in six hospital admissions following an attack by a dog involved a child under 10. They were most likely to suffer serious facial injuries requiring plastic surgery, the data shows.

No one is of course calling for a cull of dogs in London, or anywhere else for that matter despite the fact it is much more of a problem.

The New Scientist (13th February 2013) reports that:

People who call for a fox cull also forget or ignore the fact that it has been tried before, and failed. Foxes started to colonise our cities in the 1930s, when a house-building boom and suburban expansion created an ideal habitat for both people and foxes – lower-density housing with bigger gardens. From the late 1940s, the then Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries started trapping and shooting foxes in south-east London to try to curb the growing red menace. Yet fox numbers continued to increase and they spread into the inner suburbs.
In 1970 the responsibility for fox control passed to the London boroughs, and many in south and west London started trapping and shooting foxes, and gassing their dens with cyanide.
Bromley once had a full-time fox control officer who killed over 300 foxes a year, mostly by shooting them in people's gardens with a 12-bore shotgun. For two days a week he was assisted by another council employee. However, their combined efforts had no discernible impact on fox numbers and Bromley, along with the other London boroughs, ceased its fox control measures in the 1980s.
We could not even stop the early spread of foxes into London, let alone reduce numbers, an all-too-familiar story with foxes generally.

Urban city dwellers (and mankind in general must learn to live alongside wildlife. Killing every animal of a particular species whenever there is an incident is nit the solution. Simple measures should be taken by householders to ensure that children are kept safe. Foxes are not the problem. Dogs are more likely to attack your child than any kind of wild animal.

Say no to the opportunist politicians who simply join on the bandwagon and learn to respect wildlife.

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