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Hey, Foxy Lady. What can you do about an invasion of urban foxes - the answer is not much! By Amelia Milne

Blog | By Amelia Milne | Jun 06, 2024

When I first met my neighbours at my new rental house, they peered over the dilapidated garden fence at me. They not only seemed to be inspecting their new neighbour (me), but also craning their necks to check out my garden.

I could not help but wonder what on earth my neighbours were trying to see. I looked beyond the weed-ridden flower bed at the back fence, but there were no clues. Why were they so interested in the wayward, weedy garden that my landlord had left me to deal with? The weeds were knee deep.

Finally, my neighbours revealed their concern. “Do you know that foxes were born in your garden?” they told me. I defiantly reassured them, “Don’t worry at all, it will be fine. A friend of mine is going to help me remove the weeds. I haven’t seen any foxes”. They smirked.

I sent out a What’s App message to my old road group (for fear of making an embarrassment of myself in front of the new road What’s App group). A friendly Irish man, called Eoin, came back to me immediately. Yes, he was free on Monday night, and yes, he could garden for me for free and just wanted for a cold beer in return. How kind people are, I thought, naively.

It turned out that Eoin had liked my profile picture and had come to the garden to chat me up, whilst hoeing the weeds away, pulling his t-shirt up to reveal muscled arms. He must have been rather disappointed when all I offered him was a cold beer and to add insult to injury, because I am now tee-total, it was alcohol free. Eoin walked away, head hanging low.

I inspected my now weed-free garden. I must say it looked fantastic. I bought some cheap Astroturf on Amazon and laid it that week. The garden looked like new, together with a trampoline for my children.

A couple of months ago, spring was in the air. I came back from work, feeling rather tired. I looked out of the back door window, admiring my garden, and got the shock of my life because there staring back at me, was a fox. Not only that, but she had four cubs suckling her. I had never seen anything like it before.

It was rather a special moment as I caught the mother’s eye. She had the look of an exhausted breast-feeding mammal, human-like and at that moment, I had incredible respect and empathy with her. She looked at me as if to say ‘you understand, don’t you’ as her cubs rolled around underneath her, pulling at her.

On the same note, I also pinched myself. What was I doing staring at a fox? A fox was staring at me. I grabbed my phone to take a picture and the fox babies scrambled for cover underneath my children’s trampoline.

When I shared the fox photos on my road What’s App, it went viral. They loved it.

My work colleagues cooed, and my children started inviting all their friends to play, but basically to stare at the fox babies, who were now rolling around my very small garden, and growing….rather big.

After a few weeks had passed, my neighbour’s husband peered his head over the fence, “Hey? How many fox babies do you think you have?” he said in his American drawl. I took ownership. “I know the answer – 4 babies” I proudly said of my zoo-like garden. “No” he laughed slowly, “not 4, not even 5, but 6! I counted 6 last night”.

I swallowed a hard lump in my throat. Six?

The fox cubs were getting bigger. There was no way I could cope. At last, my boyfriend had an idea and covered up the den hole with an old statue of an angel’s head that we found at the back of the garden. It was made from heavy iron and he rolled it onto the hole. “They will find another exit” he reassured me.

But, that night, the neighbours texted me in anguish. They must have heard us planning our strategy.

“What has happened to the fox babies, we can’t see them in your garden? Don’t trap them, will you? You must release them.” I looked at my boyfriend. Was there another exit? Suddenly, we doubted ourselves.

We had grown very attached to the cubs. He immediately trudged outside in his Cordings dressing gown and rolled the statue away from the den entrance. That morning, we woke up feeling like saviours, to find cubs all over the garden, crawling over the table. The foxes were starting to take over. Old takeaway boxes were scattered over my garden as the foxes scavenged the street in the night. The foxes had also brought baby toys and dog toys into the garden – an old frisbee, a sensory ball, a KFC bucket.

I am sure I saw a fox bouncing on the trampoline, or maybe I was imagining things. They were ruling the roost. The sounds at night are becoming hideous of screeching and screaming.

I phoned the RSPCA and finally got through to Barbara, who assured me there was nothing I could do but to ‘run at the foxes with a broom, and that will scare them away’. There was no way I was running around my garden with a broom, screaming madly at wild animals. What would the neighbours say?

It seems crazy that there is literally nothing that I can do. There seems to be no way to get rid of these foxes in a humane manner. I can’t rehouse them. I can’t collect them and drive them back onto Wandsworth Common. I don’t want to kill them, although sometimes I fantasise about getting a pellet gun and scaring them away.

Everyone seems to have their own idea of how to solve this foxy problem. Male friends come to dinner parties and urinate around the den to ward off foxes as a natural deterrent, although it seems just the perfect excuse for a ‘wild wee’ and the foxes don’t seem to mind at all. Perhaps it’s because their urine is mostly made up of claret.

A yoga friend of mind brought citrus peel and scattered it daintily around the den chanting tantric tunes, and yet the foxes seemed to delight in the aromatherapy.

If anyone has any ideas, answers on a postcard please. But for now, it seems the foxes are here to stay, for the summer at least, until they become teenagers and flee the nest. And then, perhaps then, I will start to miss them.