“As cunning as a fox who’s just been appointed Professor of Cunning at Oxford University” Blackadder Goes Forth, 1989
The humble and cunning fox (Vulpes vulpes) is a common sight in towns, cities, and gardens throughout the UK. Sadly, many have come to view foxes as dangerous animals whose only thought is to kill. While it is important to keep in mind that wild animals can be dangerous, foxes are generally quite docile. They will avoid confrontations unless provoked, threatened, or cornered. But that doesn’t mean that they can be treated like our other domesticated four-legged friends.
Despite there being a seemingly unending stream of fox horror stories they actually do very little damage to our gardens. There may be signs of some digging, a pungent smell, and a bin on its side with trash spread across the lawn. In most cases though, foxes will run from people and household pets instead of savagely attacking. Even garden pets such as rabbits and guinea pigs are safe as long as the hutch is well-built and secured. Foxes may be cunning, but they also know when to give up if the effort outweighs the reward.
Reasons why foxes make it into your garden
Foxes are intelligent animals. They have been able to continuously adapt to our ever-changing landscape and are just as happy living in a sprawling urban environment as they are in the countryside. Our gardens often create a wonderland full of interesting and tasty things which are irresistible for the ever curious fox.
If you have spotted foxes or signs of fox activity in your garden but can’t figure out why they like your garden, check the list of some common fox attractants below:
- There is a water source. If you have a pond, fountain, or swimming pool in your garden don’t be surprised if you get some thirsty night-time visitors. Foxes, like most animals, are drawn to safe sources of water and will return time and time again.
- You feed other wildlife. If you leave food in your garden for other wildlife, such as birds or hedgehogs, you are most likely also being visited by at least one fox. Providing a wildlife-friendly environment is commendable but if you do not want foxes in your garden you should consider changing the way you feed other animals. Use specialised feeders where possible and place loose food in places which are easy to reach if you are small, like a hedgehog, but difficult to access if you are as large as a fox.
- You feed your cat or dog outside. While the smell of leftover pet food may be repulsive to us it is a difficult meal to ignore for scavengers such as foxes.
- Your garden is messy, overgrown, has a shed, or decking. Foxes are quite skittish and prefer to run and hide at the first hint of danger. Don’t be surprised to find that foxes are calling your garden home if it is overgrown, full of trash and discarded appliances. Or if you have decking or a shed with empty space underneath.
- You keep birds or other small animals in your garden. Although foxes do not kill as many animals as you may think, that does not mean that they have no interest at all in these critters. If you do keep small animals or chickens in your garden and don’t want them to be eaten, you will have to make sure that their hutches are secure and not made of flimsy materials.
- You have flowerbeds or freshly turned soil. The reason why foxes like to dig up our gardens may surprise some. Adult foxes like to dig up worms and grubs for a quick and nutritious snack On the other hand, fox pups just like to dig for practice and for the sake of digging.
- You use natural fertilisers containing bonemeal, blood, or fish. As previously mentioned, foxes don’t need much of a reason to dig up your garden. However, using any of the fertilisers mentioned above is a guaranteed method of attracting foxes to your garden.
- You routinely leave gardening tools, wellingtons, shoes, or toys outside overnight. Leaving items such as shoes and children’s toys in the garden overnight may save you a few minutes in the evening but it will attract foxes, especially cubs. Pups view our discarded garden belongings as chew toys or the perfect thing to practice hunting on, whereas adult foxes mostly defecate on them to mark their territory. No-one wants to put their wellingtons on only to step in fox poop, tidy your garden up.
Symptoms of foxes in the garden
If you are unsure as to whether or not your garden is receiving nightly fox visits, these are the signs to look out for:
- A pungent, musky smell.
- A fox smell in your garden.
- Droppings in prominent places.
- Trampled plants.
- Dug up flowerbeds.
- Holes in the lawn.
- Chewed up shoes or toys.
- Half-eaten fruit (if you have fruit trees or bushes).
- Damage to fences, wire mesh, hose pipes, polythene tunnels.
- Trash was strewn across your garden.
- Your garden looking like a freshly ploughed field, foxes will dig up entire gardens if there is an abundance of beetle grubs.
What to do with foxes in your garden
As foxes are not the violent monsters they are made out to be, the best answer to the question “what to do if you have a fox in your garden?” is to learn to co-exist with the furry visitors. Doing so gives you a front row seat to witness fox pups joyfully playing, to watch the antics of adult foxes, and your garden will be kept rodent free.
However, it is understandable that some may not welcome such nightly visitors especially if there are young children in the home. This is not the only reason as to why you may want to keep foxes out of your garden. Constantly repairing damage and fixing your flowerbeds or filling in holes in your lawn can become frustrating.
If you find yourself asking ‘how to deter foxes from my garden?’ follow the advice below to humanely deter foxes.
- Block all entrances to your garden. Inspect the edges to find out where foxes are gaining entry and seal those points of breach.
- Gather all toys, shoes, or other loose items in your garden before the night falls.
- Cover any sources of water.
- Remove or cover any leftover pet food.
- Block any entrances to spaces beneath your home, decking, shed, or other garden structures.
- Secure hutches or cages of any small animals kept outdoors.
- Remove sources of food. Make sure that all rubbish bags are tied and placed in bins with a secure lid. If you feed other animals in your garden consider purchasing specialised feeders so that others can’t get to the treats inside.
- Use plant-based fertilisers rather than those containing blood, fish, or bonemeal.
- Place a paving stone on top of your pet burial, if you have any. This way foxes can’t dig up the corpse.
- Leave a radio playing in a shed to deter foxes and their cubs.
- Use commercial repellents, they are not harmful to foxes, your garden, or any other critter.
If all else fails, there is the option of having more sophisticated fox deterrents fitted around your property. Fox deterrent systems of this type must be installed by a professional humane deterrent company.
We have prepared answers to some of the most common questions about having foxes in the garden. If you would like to welcome these little furry critters into your garden but have some concerns, keep reading.
Should you feed foxes and what should you feed them?As for what to feed foxes, they are mainly carnivorous and tend to eat birds, rodents, small animals, worms, and beetle grubs. However, foxes are also quite partial to fruit and, in adapting to our environment, they have developed the ability to eat almost anything such as cheese, bread, vegetables, and table scraps. Foxes will eat whatever you leave for them, just keep in mind that other animals may get to the food first so try to avoid onions, garlic, chocolate, and the other foods you wouldn’t give a dog.
If foxes have been frequenting your garden you may have had the pleasure of uncovering a small animal corpse while gardening. Don’t worry – the foxes aren’t ‘sending a message’, foxes store food in caches throughout their territory so that they have an alternative food source should it be needed.
However, you should also be familiar with the saying “a fed animal is a dead animal”. When it comes to feeding wildlife, they become dependant on this food source. And if they become accommodated with humans, it will likely pose a threat to their survival in the future, especially if meeting people who will be not-so-friendly towards them. Your best course of action, if you want to host these furry tenants in your garden, is try and recreate natural wildlife conditions for them.
Stop foxes unearthing corpses
We receive quite a few questions about foxes, and though we encourage you to put them down in the comments below so that all of our community will be able to answer, we are going to feature some of them here.
So there we have it, your guide to foxes in the garden. These beautiful animals are often portrayed negatively in the media with only the most extreme and rare cases being mentioned. In reality, they are mostly docile creatures that just want somewhere safe to eat, sleep, and raise their young. So long as you take the necessary precautions you and the foxes can share the garden space and co-exist.
If you do not feel comfortable having wild animals roam your garden then we urge you to first attempt the deterrence methods listed here and if that does not work to contact a professional. Do not attempt to shoot foxes as you are more likely to only wound them. This leads to a slow death brought on by an infection. Instead of trying to ‘deal with’ a fox yourself call a professional.
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Header image credits: Deposit photos / leungchopan