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All things blight and beautiful

Liverpool's urban fox 'nuisance' comes under full beam of council

Written by . Published on July 17th 2012.

All things blight and beautiful

THE tally ho-ing of the hunt-masters has been largely silenced since the Labour Government banned fox hunting. 

But now Mr Fox and his scouse friends face a new threat from townies unhappy that the bushy-tailed animals are migrating in ever increasing numbers to Liverpool's built-up areas. 

On Wednesday the activities of the urban fox population will come under the spotlight at a meeting of Liverpool City Council. 

It seems chickens and family pets have been savaged by foxes inhabiting many areas of the city, particularly the leafy suburbs of south Liverpool, and now there are worries that the foxes will set their sights on babies and young children too. 

No specific remedy has been put forward to tackle the “problem” but Lib Dem Group Leader Richard Kemp has promised it won’t herald the creation of a South Liverpool Hunt. 

Cllr Kemp’s wife Erica Kemp and Church Ward colleague Pat Maloney are generating Wednesday’s debate. 

Cllr Richard Kemp said: "I don’t know what the solution is to what is a growing problem in the city. We will see what comes forward." 

The councillors want Mayor Joe Anderson and his council cabinet to probe the problem and come back with a report in three months. 

Their motion states: “Urban foxes are an increasing problem throughout Liverpool, not only by killing smaller animals and birds but also given their increasing brazenness the potential threat to babies and young children.” 

A decade ago on my own night-time strolls in South Liverpool it was rare to spot even a single fox. Now it is not uncommon to see three or four during a 60-minute constitutional and some people put out food for the nocturnal visitors to their back gardens. 

Fox 1 

There are an estimated 33,000 urban foxes in the UK, and around 258,000 in total. The fox is by far the most common and widely spread carnivore around. Despite the fact they no longer appear fazed by our presence, there have been very few cases reported of foxes attacking humans. 

Just a few years ago there was a state of near paranoia when it was claimed a fox entered a house in the south of England and attacked a young child as it slept. 

Yet wildlife expert, John Bryant, maintains that foxes are among “the least aggressive animals you could share your environment with”. 

On one late night walk three family cats could be seen in a front garden happily nibbling away at a late night snack, and just a few feet away a friendly fox tucking into a bowl of food. 

Richard Kemp says a constituent in the Calderstones area told how eight chickens had been massacred in one night by a fox. 

Keeping a watchful eye on the growing population of urban foxes is the Mammal Group at the University of Bristol. 

It poses the question: Can fox numbers be reduced?, saying that in order to keep numbers down a staggering 70pc would have to be killed annually, over many successive years. 

Attempts in some urban areas to control fox numbers have proved unsuccessful. This is partly due to their popularity. In a recent survey by The Mammal Society foxes were voted one of the favourite British mammals. Relocating them back to the countryside has also failed - they generally find their way back to the city or cannot survive in a rural environment.

Though there are some conflicts. Foxes can be a nuisance to gardeners and allotment owners because of fouling, digging or damaging garden plants. However most problems can be easily solved by following simple advice from the website. 

The risks of people being attacked by a fox are negligible compared to the risks of being attacked by a domestic dog or cat. 


Foxy file

· Foxes and cats generally ignore each other.

· Male foxes weigh 15 pounds and females 12.5 pounds. Their fur coat makes them look bigger. A German Shepherd weighs six times as much as a fox.

· In captivity foxes can reach an age of 14. In the wild only a quarter reach two years. Just over one in 20 celebrate their fourth birthdays.

· Young foxes tend to follow their mums to learn how to seek food.

· Younger foxes are sought after by hungry badgers.

· Foxes don’t kill for pleasure. If they catch too much food they bury it for later.

· Screaming noises at night are most likely to be foxes communicating, rather than a pet cat caught up in a skirmish with a fox.

· Foxes don’t attack dogs or cats – they are more likely to be afraid of family pets

· Foxes don’t hunt in packs. They are lone hunters, though after their hunting expeditions they sometimes meet up socially (that's enough, ed).

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21 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

AnonymousJuly 17th 2012.

Interesting read. Much hype over the claim of an injured child a while ago in London, totally out of proportion to reality as usual in such cases, would be crazy to start any action based on that
In my experience many observations of Foxes turn out to be under-nourished dogs when you get close up.
Happens a lot late at night on Mathew Street

AnonymousJuly 17th 2012.

If Noah had been a councillor in Liverpool, all of the creatures great and small, would have been banned. Let's just get used to the idea foxes now live in our city and enjoy them. Millions of birds a year are killed by family moggies. Do they get their marching orders as well?

3 Responses: Reply To This...
MickeyDrippin'July 17th 2012.

Agreed that we should accept foxes but I think the notion that millions of birds are killed every year by moggies is somewhat over-exaggerated.

Cat StevensJuly 17th 2012.

It's not though, I have a lovely cat and he's killed a robin, a hen blackbird, two mice and at twice removed feathers from a woodpigeon in an attack in the last few weeks.

MickeyDrippin'July 20th 2012.

Cat. You mustn't be feeding him enough.

Darth FormbyJuly 17th 2012.

Don't know about foxes ignoring cats. I saw a fox chasing a cat in Tesco's car park. The cat hid under a car and I chased the fox away.

Liverpool WagJuly 17th 2012.

It was probably terrified by your light-sabre and ukelele playing.

Darth FormbyJuly 17th 2012.

I find your lack of faith disturbing, Liverpool Wag.

It looks like they're onto me...


sparksfleaJuly 17th 2012.

Cats kill loads of birds and small animals. I like to encourage birds in the garden and don't like them to get killed but I would much rather see a fox get a bird snack than one of the zillions of pampered city cats.

1 Response: Reply To This...
AnonymousJuly 17th 2012.

Cats, no matter how well fed by humans, are natural hunters. You cannot breed that instinct out of them, so we should all accept that birds and small mammals (e.g. rats and mice) are going to be their prey from time to time.

Darth FormbyJuly 17th 2012.

Why doesn't cat food come in bird or mouse flavours anyway? It's pretty obvious that's what they really want!

1 Response: Reply To This...
Grandad's Flannelette NightshirtJuly 17th 2012.

I find it disturbing how rabbits like Whiskas Rabbit cat food

Lord StreetJuly 17th 2012.

That story about a fox entering a house and attacking a baby was rubbish put about by the so-called ‘Countryside Alliance’ (formerly known as the British Field Sports Society) to right-wing and hysterical elements of the press tas a protest against the ban on fox hunting!

The average fox would run a mile rather than face the average cat.

Foxes eat rats which are a plague in our cities.

Foxes will kill chickens but poultry-rearers ought to protect them properly with adequate fencing. Foxes are only in the suburbs to eat the easy food people leave lying around.

Far more nuisance is caused by grey squirrels which dig up and eat expensive bulbs, wreck garden pots, raid bird-feeders and will kill and eat young birds in their nests. In addition they carry a virus that kills our smaller native red squirrels which are endangered thanks to the spread of the greys.

Councils ought to kill the squirrels.

Darth FormbyJuly 17th 2012.

Lord street, I saw a fox chasing a cat the other night.

1 Response: Reply To This...
Lord StreetJuly 17th 2012.

That was because the cat had purloined the fox's pocketwatch in some good-natured badinage.

AnonymousJuly 17th 2012.

Can they kill the seagulls please?

1 Response: Reply To This...
Chester SueJuly 17th 2012.

You'll be needing flying foxes for that one.

MikeyBJuly 17th 2012.

At one stage in history, Britain was populated by another predatory creature the wolf. It was hated by the aristocracy because it "stole" their deer and all sorts of anti-wolf stories were concocted, in order to justify it's extinction. Today, there are many people who would like to see the fox going the same way because it kills chickens and therefore children are at risk. Although, I suspect the Countryside Alliance would be totally against the extermination of foxes as their "sport" would be at risk.

Anthony SchumacherJuly 20th 2012.

Spend a few nights working in the city and you'll soon see foxes running around with big fat rats clamped in their jaws. There is an argument for one pest keeping another pest in check. Right I'm off to write something about protecting the rats from the foxes...

Woolton HillJuly 21st 2012.

Fancy a Calderstones resident keeping chickens!

It used to proper posh around there when I was a lad!

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