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City foxes: garden guest or pest?
Foxes in Henleaze garden
These foxes snapped by the Zadarnowski family in Bristol have been tagged by the university research project

Bristol has had a love-hate relationship with foxes for decades now - and after years of decline the population is on the up once more.

The animals have been living in our gardens since the 1930s.

Bristol University has been studying the city's urban foxes since 1977, when Professor Stephen Harris founded the Mammal Research Unit.

The professor has been feeding roast chicken to the foxes in his Stoke Bishop garden for the past 15 years.

"About half the food they eat is supplied by local residents and when we did a survey of people in this part of Bristol about one in 10 households feed the foxes regularly every night.

"As long as you don't make them tame, don't try to touch them or play with them, just put a bit of food out... that's absolutely fine."

Bristol-based wildlife expert, the BBC's Mike Dilger, says he has seen a marked increase in the city's fox population in 2009.

"I've got a very suburban small garden in Kingsdown, Bristol, and I've had some very lovely fox encounters in my back garden."

Mike clearly likes to see urban foxes, but says that although the animals scavenge from our bins, city life is not easy for them.

"It's very much a 'live fast, die young' scenario. The average fox you'll see in Bristol won't live much beyond two years of age.

"The vast majority get hit by cars, catch mange, maybe they'll be attacked by a dog... So they don't live very long. But where they are doing well they're breeding like rabbits!"

What do you think of our urban foxes? Do you feed them? What antics do they get up to on your garden? Let us know...

Don't dislike foxes, in fact for years have enjoyed seeing whole families running around at the bottom of our garden. This last week has changed my mind though as they have come right up on to the the patio. There is no food or rubbish or pets to attract them and no shelter apart from a bench. We do have some wood pigeons that seem to like our garden. This last three nights we have had to clear droppings everywhere and feathers and a large bone which has been eaten clean and left under the bench. We have recently installed a pond. It is clear that my sonar cat repellent which is supposed to work on foxes is not working. This morning looked like they had been to a concert and left their mess and feathers everywhere after a good night on the town!! The blue bottles that follow are enough to stop you wanting to go out there!! Help!!
Stella, Stoke Bishop

Almost twice a day we have a fox that walks into our front garden and sunbathes. The only problem with foxes walking around a housing estate is when it's bin day. Our district council won't supply us with wheelie bins. The main reason they wander in and stay in our towns and cities is because there is a ready supply of food e.g. chicken carcases and eggs. However it is sad that we trap the foxes and release them back into the countryside when they have lost their ability to hunt.
Matthew, Blandford, Dorset

Foxes may be beautiful, but anyone who thinks they are gentle has no real knowledge of their behaviour. They are a natural and ruthless hunter that regularly kills to eat. Unfortunately they do cause significant damage to livestock which is why they are regarded as a pest in the countryside.
Peter Crossland

I feed 3 foxes every weekend they all turn up at different times , I put out some cooked sausage and a couple of eggs and just watch them through the window as they run off with their goodies to bury it.
David, Bishopsworth

We had foxes in our garden daily for years until they mainly died off because of the mange. However, we are gradually seeing more and more of them (or seeing where they have been) and I am all for the maxim of live and let live - we take animals' habitat away so feel they are justified in encroaching onto ours!
Carol, Bristol

We love the foxes they are beautiful, and gentle creatures. The only reason they go through dustbins is because they are hungry, the same thing a starving human would do. So we feed ours and they are as good as gold.
Jane, Worcester Park

We live in Horfield near allotments and my mother lives next door. She has had many foxes in her garden over the last 20 years and currently has 3 regular foxes that come every evening to be fed, sometimes together but more often separately.

If she is late putting out the dog food they will sit on her lawn looking towards her French windows as if to say 'come on we're waiting!' One has lost some fur and has a stick of a tail - we thought probably through mange - but seems to have recovered and is quite active.

We have had pet rabbits and guinea pigs in our garden and always made sure they were secure at night and so have had no problem. As for Mum's cat he's not afraid and has been known to chase the fox! We refer to them as Bush, Stick and Lioney (as his features remind Mum of a lion??). WE think it is wonderful to see these wild animals in our gardens.
Heather, Horfield

On a daily basis we see a fox strolling through the garden, around the side of the house then onto the pavement. They will stop and look at you (looking at them). We have frequently found the odd shoe or leather glove in the garden, and we assume that the fox has been chewing them.
The Zadarnowski family, Henleaze

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In pictures: Bristol's urban foxes
29 May 09 |  Nature & Outdoors
Fox expert calls for public help
23 Apr 07 |  Berkshire



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