Traumatic, but did we all overreact to fox attack?
09:39 12 February 2013
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ou have more chance of being attacked by a dog, or even a cow, than a fox but as news broke of the one-month old attacked in London, the near hysterical response was to immediately call for something to be done about this “urban menace” – and it was not for people to stop dumping food or end urban sprawl.
There is no doubt that this was a traumatic attack on baby Denny Dolan, said to have been “dragged from his cot” and seriously injured by a fox, and it has sent a shock wave of fear through certain communities but does it warrant the calls for mass culls from some?
Wildlife experts, and many residents who think it a privilege to have wild animals entering their urban gardens, think not.
John Milton, head of reserves for Norfolk Wildlife Trust, said: “With increasing urbanisation, an animal like a fox which is an opportunist, is increasingly finding ways into towns and cities.
“Some foxes in large urban conurbations will spend a large amount of time in that environment. They are a wild animal and they do hunt. I can’t comment on the specifics of the case with the baby but if it entered a house it could have been hunting for food. Another aspect is that if they are cornered they are, as I have said, a wild animal and will react as such.
“However, I think we need to keep this in perspective. These kind of incidents are incredibly rare. There are far more incidents involving domestic animals and even cattle for example.”
Mr Milton said that in America they have trouble with racoons and even bears in urban areas and, as a result, take suitable action to make sure there is not ready access to food.
“We are far more complacent in this area in this county,” he added.
“I know there are calls for culling of urban foxes and, although I have great sympathy for those involved in this incident, I want to point out again that this is a very rare incident. It is also worth noting that fox hunting with hounds was not a means of controlling population and is pretty useless when it comes to urban foxes.”
In the wake of the incident there has been much finger pointing and hand wringing but really the blame lies in one place – with us.
A walk around our town and city centres early on a Saturday morning before the street cleaners have had chance to work their magic shows a feast of fast food strewn anywhere but in the bin.
Some people, thinking they are doing something positive, also leave food out to try and tame the animals, which unfortunately adds to the problem.
Speaking about the attack, an RSPCA spokeswoman said: “It’s not typical fox behaviour at all. Foxes will come closer to a house if there are food sources. Then they can become quite bold, but they usually do back off and run away when there’s people around.
“It’s extremely unusual for foxes to attack young children or anyone.”
Growing urban sprawl also means diminishing habitat for a variety of animals, not just foxes, but that seems to hold little sway with London Mayor Boris Johnson.
He said: “They may appear cuddly and romantic but foxes are also a pest and a menace, particularly in our cities.
“This must serve as a wake-up call to London’s borough leaders, who are responsible for pest control.
“They must come together, study the data, try to understand why this is becoming such a problem and act quickly to sort it out.”
The issue has divided opinion but hopefully common sense will prevail.