We asked an expert why foxes are so fucking brave these days

‘If you don’t want them in your garden buy a water gun and menace them a bit’


Foxes run the streets of UK cities the same way that the Mafia basically governs Sicily.

Walking home from a night out, it is obvious who is in charge – and those masters don’t walk around on two legs.

Look how bold this one is

Look how bold this one is

But, for the most part, at least for a while, the culprits remained out of sight. You never really saw the foxes. Slowly, surely, the situation changed. The foxes became very fucking brave indeed. Now I regularly see them in the day and at night they follow me home.

Last week Steve Gould, from Thurrock in Essex, had been out drinking with friends in Soho. He fell asleep at an East London bus stop and woke up to find a fox chewing at his foot and trying to pull his trousers off.

Steve grabbed a photo of his new mate

Steve grabbed a photo of his new mate

These foxes are very fucking brave indeed. 

How did this happen? Why did this happen? Is there any solution to the fox problem in UK cities? Is it even a problem? For answers we spoke to John Bryant an Animal Welfare Consultant at the Humane Wildlife Deterrence Association.

Why are foxes so brave nowadays? They seem far bolder than ever before.

In 45 years of being involved with foxes, and the last 18 years where I have been involved with urban foxes I have never come across an aggressive fox – but they are very  bold. Why has this happened? Well, if you think of a cub, coming out of its den for the first time after a month under a shed, for the rest of their short lives they’re going to see human beings everywhere. Generation after generation have acclimatised to urban life. They’re getting bolder partly because we’ve encouraged them. If you don’t want them in your garden buy a water gun and menace them a bit.

Increasingly, they take no more notice of us than a rural fox would take of a horse or a cow. We have become part of their environment. People feeding foxes has encouraged that – although I would say that feeding them is a bad idea.

Could we talk about the opposite type of person. Who’s alarmed by the noise they make at night, alarmed by the idea that foxes might threaten children. What would you say to them? 

People say “we’re having a terrible time with foxes, there’s loads of them around us, and we can hear them killing cats at night.” I have to tell them that they are not hearing foxes kill cats. Cars are more than capable of dealing out some punishment to a fox. Even then, they usually get on quite well. It would be pointless going round and saying foxes are a danger to cats, because they’re not. The same goes for foxes being a danger to people. They’re not.

But with 10,000 foxes inside the M25, there’s bound to be the odd incident. Usually because people are being stupid – the Hackney case from 2010 is a good example of this. Obviously foxes can be a nuisance, but no more than domestic cats or dogs can be. Since that incident in Hackney – which was serious – I think I’m right in saying that 16 children have been killed by dogs. There are bigger problems out there than foxes.

Just chilling

Just chilling

Could you tell me about how foxes live in a city like London?

A typical pair of foxes – depending on what parks or housing are in the area – generally would occupy an average territory of 40 acres. That gives them enough space to rear a family and find food. Most of the latter would be discarded by human beings or even, increasingly, fed to them by human beings.

Where I live in Ealing, west London, when I come back from a night out I see three or four different foxes. Am I seeing the same two foxes in different places rather than loads of them? 

Yes. Although saying that, when foxes do well and conditions are right they may allow the previous years cubs to stay on, provided they’re female, using them as babysitters. So you might get more foxes. But that’s a very utopian view of it. Foxes don’t tend to find themselves in situations like that inside the M25. Dozens of them are run over by cars every single night. The mortality rate is massive.

One of the most annoying things that people say is “we have to cull foxes in urban and rural areas because they have no natural predators”. This is true, they haven’t, at least in this country, ever had significant natural predators. But they certainly have unnatural predators. Around 60,000 foxes are killed everywhere on the roads. That’s three times the number killed by fox hunts that have been operating for centuries.

Would a cull be an effective way to deal with fox populations in cities? 

No, absolutely not. It’s been proven to be pointless. There are plenty of people in this current government who have no problem hunting or shooting animals for pleasure. David Cameron in particular. But they can’t change Defra policy, because that’s based on 50 years of science. Killing foxes, particularly urban foxes, is pointless. They are replaced within days by new foxes.