URBAN fox numbers are on the increase - and MP Jo Swinson is backing an information campaign which helps people deal with them.
Many householders welcome the presence of foxes in their gardens - but others are concerned about the mess they make and fear they may attack pets or even children.
Ms Swinson, the MP for East Dunbartonshire, raised the problem after a constituent said that her garden regularly played host to SEVEN of the animals.
The MP said: “While foxes do not generally pose any risk to humans, they can damage gardens and harm pets. Local reports of the animals have recently increased.
“The RSPCA advises against feeding foxes, as well as keeping bins closed and removing toys and shoes from gardens. The RSPCA has produced a useful fact-sheet which can be found on their website.”
She added: “Foxes can be a real nuisance and with several reports that East Dunbartonshire residents have seen an increasing number of the animals, people should refer to the simple steps the RSPCA recommends taking to deter them.
“The best advice is to avoid feeding foxes, so they don’t come back for more, and ensure there’s nothing out in the garden that could attract them.”
The RSPCA guide suggests several ways of preventing foxes from setting up home in your garden.
It recommends clearing away windfall fruit, making sure bins and composters are securely sealed, and only putting out wild bird food on roofed tables, which foxes can’t access.
Pets, such as rabbits and chickens, which are kept in the garden should be kept in secure, mesh lined enclosures.
Another good idea is to remove any spaces where a fox can find shelter - this means cutting areas of long grass where they can hide, closing garage, shed and greenhouse doors and preventing them getting underneath huts, where they can make dens and raise cubs.
Gardeners can also plant prickly bushes and buy fox repellents from garden centres.
The RSPCA insists that there is little evidence that foxes attack cats, and will not attack children, though they may become “quite bold” if they are regularly fed.
Roundworm infection from fox (as well as cat and dog) droppings is another risk, but animal experts say the chance of infection is “extremely low”, especially if any faeces are regularly cleared away.
To help urban foxes, the charity suggests putting out cheese, boiled potatoes, raw chicken, bread and table scraps at dusk - but only at times when natural food resources may be low, such as during the depths of winter.
Many people complain about foxes screaming and howling at night during the mating season, which peaks in January. The RSPCA suggests buying a good set of ear plugs.
To download the RSPCA’s guide to living with urban foxes, go to www.rspca.org.uk and follow the links.
What do you think about urban foxes? Do you love them or loathe them? Are there too many, or do you think they’re dangerous?
We want to hear your experiences and send us any photographs of them - e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org or drop us a line at 27 Stewart Street, Milngavie, G62 6BW.