Reporter Charles Forrester looks at whether they’re dangerous
By Charles Forrester
Foxes have been sighted numerous times in the past month in Southey Road area of Wimbledon and have approached pedestrians.
Urban foxes remain a source of concern for many people, and are stigmatised as being disease-ridden vermin that may attack pets and children.
The foxes have been seen emerging from Pelham Primary in the evening, when they have emerged to hunt for food.
The Mammal Group at Bristol University downplayed the risk to children, citing statistics from studies in America.
“Of the 5 million people bitten by dogs every year, 15-20 people die, and most of these are children. It is not impossible that a child could be bitten by a fox but, if it occurs, it is extremely rare.”
An RSPCA spokesperson allayed the fears of the dangers to cats, saying: “Foxes and cats have been watched through night-vision binoculars.
“The animals usually ignored each other, the foxes were chased away, or were nervous of the cats.”
The low number of incidents of foxes attacking cats clearly shows that most are at little or no risk from foxes, they added.
Resident Neil Hobbs, 33, said he was happy to see the foxes, and had first seen them in the summer.
He said he wouldn’t do anything to move the foxes on, as they were “doing their normal day-to-day stuff.”
When asked about the possible problems that foxes cause in urban areas, he said: “If people think that they’re a problem, it’s a problem we’ve created.”
Foxes can carry mange and roundworm, however both would require direct contact with a fox or fox droppings.
Like puppies, foxes love chewing and will dig holes searching for or hiding food, or to make a home.
Merton Council does not provide any control services for foxes, but gives telephone advice to concerned residents.
This includes containing waste in dustbins and keeping bins indoors until collection day.
Additionally, applying a strong disinfectant to the inside of refuse bags to mask the smell of any food content will make it less attractive to foxes.
Foxes have never been classified as vermin, and local authorities are under no obligation to remove them.
A fox website also added that foxes are unlikely to knock over bins with the intention of getting food, unless the lid was loose and they were able to smell it.
Foxes began to move into urban areas of the UK in the 1940s, as cities expanded and they were able to find shelter in large gardens, as well as a plentiful food supply.
Pelham Primary was unavailable for comment.
For advice on foxes, Merton council’s pest control unit can be contacted on 0208 545 3022 or email: [email protected] .