The cricket club said shooting the fox dead had been a "very last resort"
A cricket club's decision to hire a marksman to shoot dead a nuisance fox has enraged local animal lovers.
Sussex County Cricket Club, in Hove, said the fox could have forced them to cancel matches, and all other means of getting rid of it had been exhausted.
Dave Brooks, chief executive, described the incident as "unfortunate".
Residents living near the site in Eaton Road complained to the club and called police after hearing shots. Officers said no crime had been committed.
"It's upset a number of people," Mr Brooks said.
"We've always had urban foxes around the ground but we've never had any issues before.
"This one was acting very strangely, scratching and digging holes."
He said the club had looked at other ways of getting rid of it, such as rehousing it, but none were suitable,
Mr Brooks said the fox was shot dead as "a very last resort to protect the premises".
Valerie Paynter, leader of the Save Hove conservation campaign, organised a demonstration outside the club on Tuesday, which was attended by about 20 protesters.
'Not a solution'
"I think it's outrageous to have guns being used in a residential area. What about people's cats? What about the fact we have a lot of foxes in the area because we are so close to the Downs?" she said.
"If you get rid of one fox, another one will just come and take its place. It's not a solution."
She added: "It could have been a male fox with a vixen underground with newborn cubs who have now lost their main breadwinner."
A Sussex Police spokesman said: "Police were called to Hove Cricket Ground at around midnight on Sunday 11 April, following reports of gun shots being heard.
"Having investigated the incident, it was established a licensed pest control company was working at the time.
"It is not in violation of a firearms licence to shoot vermin at night on private property, therefore no further action is being taken."