Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Tally Ho! Hunt Down the Capital's Vulpine Menace

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Tally Ho! Hunt Down the Capital's Vulpine Menace

Article excerpt

Byline: Simon Jenkins

IHAVE a fox, a big one. Over three feet from nose to tail, she arrived in my garden a month ago and declined to leave when asked to do so. Her pointed black face peered in through the kitchen window each morning, begging for breakfast. It being winter, I did not notice she had excavated a den beneath the garden shed. She had removed much of its base and buried the adjacent flower bed in soil and leaves. The place stank. Shouts, hurled stones and broom handles failed to evict her. One night she had such a screeching matrimonial dispute with a dog fox that windows lit up every house in the block.

I did what any citizen would do and rang the council. The following conversation ensued: "Pest control, please."

"What pest?" "A fox in my garden." "That is not a pest. In the view of the council a fox is not a pest. We refer you to the fox deterrence unit."

What! With foxes marauding the borough like tinkers come to town, I don't want deterrence, I want extermination.

I was curtly given a number in Tunbridge Wells and the phone went dead. My vulpine education began. The deterrence officer heard me out and was certainly solicitous, but entirely for the fox. It was, he assured me, a vixen, as if the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea always addresses ladies properly.

This being February, he said, she probably had four little cubs under my shed. How, he wanted to know, were the adorable creatures doing. Was the shed warm? Did they need for anything? My suggestion of strychnine and two barrels of a shotgun was clearly in bad taste.

I was reminded of his opposite number in Camden some years ago. A friend of mine found a sick fox lying on her lawn and also rang pest control. She was put through to "the fox project", where an official asked after its symptoms so as to decide "what sort of medicine" was needed. My friend asked sarcastically if they recommended mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. After an explosive exchange the council sent round a "fox ambulance" -- in half the time of any human one -- and Camden's iconic mammal was taken on a stretcher to a clinic in Borehamwood. My friend was offered counselling, modern government's answer to every woe: it treats not the complaint but the complainant.

There are an estimated 10,000 foxes in London. Their culinary tastes have evolved from domestic chickens to couscous and ratatouille and dwindling rubbish collections have added to their menus. They are strictly territorial, each fox manor covering 20-30 acres.

Removing one thus merely leaves its patch open to a newcomer. Another friend had three foxes shot in her garden in succession, only to be overwhelmed by a plague of rats.

Given London government's reluctance to wage total war on foxes, the residents' only remedy is apparently "deterrence". …

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