12:19am Thursday 28th March 2013
This month Forest Hill bore witness to a rise in Rodent crime when a Fox was nearly arrested for breaking and entering.
Foxes. In novels they are always russet red, mischevious, or sly but never dull, clever and heavily romanticiesed. In eality they are browny-orange, with patchy fur, covered in dirt and soil, with a sloping physique, an uneasy quietness and faces that look like rats that never once ate any cheese. Basil Brush, they are not. My family were shocked and horrified when, having left the door open for a few moments to take the bins out, the my mother returned to the hallway to encounter the pest staring brazenly back at her. She ran at it intimidatingly, and still the thing refused to budge. Finally she called my father down the stairs to give her hand. Even the sight of a 5 ft 11 muscled man wielding a baseball bat did quail this Aslan of Foxes.
Eventually, after several attempts (including the whole family charging, running and waving our arms about) the fox deigned to move - further down the hall and into the dining room. However the sound of the tumble-dryer seemed to achieve what we had striven for and the Fox bolted, missing us by inches (much to my younger sister’s horror) and out of the front door (much to my mother’s relief).
My question that is at the root of this little anecodte is thus; what is happening to the Nations foxes? Why have they become so brazen? Is it our fault? And most importantly want can we do about these animals who are not only pests but incredibly dangerous.
The response to the first question is that since the late Victorian era, and the British instigation of the industrial revolution, foxes have had a struggle on their hands. Or paws. As industry developed, urbanisation was an inevitable result. Towns and cities grew and spread out, and foxes found themselves pushed further and further out into the countryside. However the rate at which urbanisation developed exceeded the rate of animal adaptation. Therefore the foxes that plague our towns and neighbourhoods are there because to them it is still their habitat- they were here first, so frankly we can get lost.
Although my tone is seemingly facetious, this point is one hundred per cent true; we are the intruders not the foxes. And while they drive us crazy with their incredibly loud, bizarre and hair-raising "bonjour" and "adieus" to each other at four o'clock in the morning, it was their land first and no one and nothing deserves to be pushed out their homes (and when you're jamaican like I am, the every history lesson for the firsy four years of your life are about The Slave Trade, this is a concept that you clearly understand). This answers our second question; yes – it is very much our fault. So does this then give foxes the right to trawl through our bins? Enter our homes? Attack our babies?
We have heard some horror stories over the last few months; just a few weeks ago a fox was caught mauling a four-week old baby in Downham. While this controversy provoked many questions regarding parenting and a “baby-proof” household, that must be acknowledged, their answers are somehow irrelevant. The point is, the victim was a baby, and the attacker was a fox. The line of defence for the fox is that the animal was acting as a result of its instinct of self preservation and survical; it was hungry and the baby seemed to be a means to an end. However, this almost makes the fox problem worse. If foxes are hungry, and are doing whatever instinct instructs, as most animals do, to ensure their survival then what next? If the desperatioon of a fox is even now displaying man-eating tendencies, then where could potential be a decade down the line?
Animals are a brilliant, integral part of society and should be treated accordingly. However if an aspect of society is providing too damaging to the rest of that society then a solution needs to be found. With people we call it the justice system; if someone purposefully acts in a way that could be harmful to society then they are arrested and may face a jail sentence. But what to do about foxes? They cannot be arrested, killing them raises ethical issues and they are not seen as pest in the same way that mice and cockroaches are. Therefore they often treated as a stray pet might be. However the urban foxes of suburbs are volatile due to the fact that they have lost their habitat but are still being fed by our leftovers, without having to suffer the crowds and fear of central London.
The only way to really end the fox problem is to have stricter regulations in place for dealing with them. We must ensure than bins are lidded in away that makes it impossible for foxes to raid them i.e. weighted lids. We must ensure that we protect our pets- I will never forget the horrific sound of a cat being killed by a fox. And we must ensure that we take the necessary precautions with our families that allow them to be safe and protected; for example, in the rare warm weather, if a child is outside and foxes are known ito be in the area, the child must be watched.
Is it unreasonable or extremist or right wing to suggest that there is a difference between foxes being exterminated for safety is different to them being killed for sport?Is it unreasonable or extremist or right wing to ask that foxes which hurt people be put down? And is it unreasonable or extremist or right wing to suggest a Fox Rehabilitation Program where a fox population is properly implemented their natural climate, as opposed to plaguing London? It is universally agreed that urban foxes are the most volatile and dangerous; it is a combination of the pollution, the climate, the lack of food and the scraps that they can find that make them so. If animal charities put more effort into rehabilitation, populatioon control and finding a compromise between the extreme haters who want to take to the streets with guns, and the lovers, who want to keep them as pets. Not only would this prevent the fox death toll from rising, and find them a new home, but it would of course benefit the inhabitants of the capital city, especially surburbia.
It would be wonderful if, in the not-too-distant-future, mothers could leave their children in the garden, without fearing than their children will have their extremities gnawed off by a starving, oversized rodent. Similarly it would benefit the foxes if there could come a day for them when they wouldn’t have to scavenge in bins, doge cars and have staring contests with people, but instead can hunt in forests, burrow in fresh soil and see for miles green grass, green hills and nature as it is supposed to be.
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