Newcastle City Council is now aware of various instances of urban foxes encroaching into people’s gardens and causing a particular nuisance especially in relation to foraging in bins and refuse, and causing distress to domestic animals.
Newcastle City Council’s Pest Control service does not extend to urban foxes, so the problem with these animals becomes the responsibility of the owner or occupier of the property where the problem occurs. However, we can offer practical advice and information about urban foxes and how best to control their appearance on your property.
As it is the abundance of food and shelter and almost a complete absence of predators that has enabled the fox to thrive in inner cities, it is essential that residents ensure they restrict access to sources of food and those opportunities for shelter by way of prevention.
Natural England have produced an advice leaflet that suggests the following measures;
Do not feed foxes, either intentionally or unintentionally. Ensure that foxes cannot access food put out for other wildlife or pets. Make bird tables inaccessible for foxes to climb onto, for example, by erecting a covered table at a height of at least 1.5 m (5 ft). Always clear away spilt food from under any bird feeder. These measures will also reduce the vulnerability of feeding birds to predation by foxes and help prevent rodent infestations, which can also attract foxes.
Store rubbish, especially food waste (including composted waste), in fox-proof containers made of materials such as metal or plastic. Ensure that dustbin lids are secure eg by having a clip-on lid or expanding 'bungie' straps which secure the lid, and avoid leaving rubbish sacks unprotected. Clear away wind-fallen fruit.
Damage to lawns is sometimes caused by foxes attracted by the presence of invertebrate turf pests such as leatherjackets and chafers. Removal of these pests using a pesticide approved for the purpose or a biological control product (eg nematode worms) may alleviate the problem; however, the effects on other invertebrates (and those species which feed on them) should be fully considered before doing so. The costs of preventing this type of damage can sometimes outweigh the benefits; in fact, some gardeners tolerate it as damage is often seasonal, occurring for limited periods of the year.
Provide secure, fox-proof accommodation for vulnerable pets and livestock, especially at night. Foxes can bite through ordinary chicken wire; welded mesh provides a much stronger alternative. Foxes climb well, have strong jaws and are powerful diggers. They can be very tenacious, especially when they have had a 'taste' of what is available. Do not underestimate the determination and intelligence of a fox.
Human interference will often encourage foxes to leave a site. Filling in excavations as soon as they appear can prevent foxes from moving in where they are not wanted. This can be done by light blocking with loose soil. This will help to ensure that no animals become trapped below ground. Care must be taken to check that the hole is not part of an active badger sett; blocking or interfering with a badger sett without a licence is illegal.
A variety of natural and non-toxic animal repellants available on the market that may be used to discourage the animals from visiting your property, but ensure the product is suitable for the purpose prior to purchase, always read the manufacturer’s label and follow their instructions for use. There are also ultra-sonic devices that emit sounds frequencies inaudible to the human ear, but sufficient to deter an urban fox from the area.
We would not advise any residents to attempt any form of fox control i.e. trapping or killing, themselves without the services of a professional pest control service, with experience of urban foxes. Some methods utilised may be illegal and offences may be committed under the Animal Welfare Act 2006.