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 Urban Fox Advice

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Foxes are a highly adaptable species that have been very successful at exchanging their rural habitat for that of our towns and cities. In spite of this adaptability, life in an urban environment is tough for any animal and foxes are one of the most common admissions to rescue centres; they frequently get injured in road traffic accidents, suffer from diseases like sarcoptic mange, or become separated from their parents as cubs. The need for fox rescue in London is therefore extremely high, and sadly there are just too few rescue organisations to meet the demand.

 

The Greenwich Wildlife Network does assist with the rescue of foxes in the boroughs of Greenwich and Bexley, however until we have secured dedicated premises for our work, we do not have the facilities to house foxes for the long-term. At present, we mainly offer interim placements for foxes until a space with another organisation can be secured, or help with the capture and transportation of foxes to wildlife hospitals. 

 

On this page, we address some of the most common reasons that the public seek help with foxes - and explain all the options available for foxes in need in the boroughs of Greenwich and Bexley. Click below to read about:

 
Got a fox-related emergency in Greenwich or Bexley? Contact these organisations.

If you find a fox that is collapsed, that does not run away when approached, that is trapped or entangled, dragging its back legs, visibly badly wounded, or covered in flies, then this is a potential emergency - contact a rescue organisation ASAP. If you find a lone fox cub, then this is not neccesarily an emergency - contact an organisation for advice before intervening.

The Fox Project

Contact Number: 01892731565

Opening Hours: 9 AM to 9 PM.

Important notes: If there is no answer, keep calling until you get through. Stay with the fox or at least keep it in view, unless calling for general advice. The Fox Project over the entire boroughs of Bexley and Greenwich, Bromley, West Wickham, Blackheath & Lewisham; they cannot cover Deptford, Peckham, Dulwich, Crystal Palace, or the whole of South East London except very rarely, on days with low-demand.

Fox Angels

Please send a message on Facebook - follow this link.

 

The Greenwich Wildlife Network

Please join and post on the Facebook group - follow this link.

Dartford Animal Rescue 

Contact number: 07823 758145
Or send a message on Facebook - follow this link.

South Essex Wildlife Hospital

South Essex Wildlife Hospital in Grays:

Contact Number: 01375 893893

Address: Orsett, Grays RM16 3BH

Opening Hours: 8.30 AM to 10 PM.

Important notes: 

South Essex Wildlife Hospital are not able to attend injured or unwell foxes in the Greenwich or Bexley borough or collect them. However, you can take a fox directly to their wildlife hospital in Grays if the fox is a very young cub, or if he or she is unconscious or collapsed and can be safely placed in a box or an animal carrier without risking injury to yourself.

If you find a severely injured fox "out of hours" - 24-HOUR VETS

 

Important notes: 24-hour vets are sometimes the only option if you find a severely injured fox outside the typical opening hours of most rescue organisations, for example very late at night. They are only an option, however, if the fox is so severely injured and incapacitated that it can be placed in a box or animal carrier without any risk of harm to yourself during the handling.

 

24-hour vets in or near the Greenwich and Bexley boroughs include:

Vets Now Thamesmead

1c Eynsham Dr, Abbey Wood, London SE2 9RQ

020 8616 1468

Medivet Dartford

Enterprise House House, Dartford DA1 2AU

01322 897977

Medivet Beckenham

Foxgrove Road, Beckenham, BR3 5AT

020 8650 2003

 
Advice - Limping Foxes
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It is not unusual for foxes to suffer from leg injuries as a result of territorial disputes, road traffic accidents, or even attacks by dogs. 

 

Although it is understandable to be concerned when you see a limping fox, in many cases, a limp will be caused by a nasty sprain or wound, and therefore will resolve itself over time, without treatment. 

 

An exception is if a limb is being dragged on the ground, if the fox isn’t able to stand or walk, if the fox is surrounded by flies, if the fox is bleeding heavily, if bone is exposed, or the fox is not attempting to run away when approached. In these scenarios, we suggest contacting a rescue organisation such as The Fox Project, the Greenwich Wildlife Network or the Fox Angels immediately, ideally when the fox is still in sight.  

 

If the limp is mild however, then the injury may not be severe enough to justify putting the fox through the stressful ordeal of being captured and placed in a rescue centre, which is often in itself quite detrimental to their health - the fox may injure themselves further trying to escape, or stop eating in captivity, for example. If you are unsure whether a limp is severe enough to warrant the fox being captured, then please try to get a video of the animal walking, and then ask a rescue organisation to view the video and advise.


Whilst a contentious debate exists about whether feeding foxes is harmful or beneficial, you can certainly provide food for the purposes of monitoring a fox with a limp. You can also give a homeopathic treatment in food that has natural anti-inflammatory properties and may aid the healing process. Since this is a homeopathic treatment, it is not dangerous to other animals if accidentally ingested, and can be purchased online by clicking on this link. Whilst there is no concrete data on whether this natural remedy works, many rescuers have seen it yield results in injured foxes. Please ensure that you read the instructions and follow them carefully for the best chance of successful results.

Advice - Mange in Foxes
 
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Sarcoptic mange, a condition caused by parasitic mites that burrow into the skin and cause irritation, fur loss, and secondary skin infections, is extremely common among urban foxes. In its most advanced stages, mange causes untold suffering to the affected animal; a fox with severe mange is a very upsetting sight to behold.

 

Mange has become such a frequent problem among UK foxes that capturing every affected fox for treatment is not always possible, and rescue organisations now often advise the public on how to treat foxes in the wild, by providing medication in food. 

 

This medication may be homeopathic or prescribed by a vet - there is some debate in the field of wildlife rescue on which of these options should be used, the reasons for which we have explained below. 

 

Both homeopathic and prescription treatments must be given in food, so in order to administer them, we recommend getting the affected fox into the habit of being fed at a similar time each day as a first step. It is EXTREMELY important to follow the instructions for these treatments perfectly.

 

In the most severe cases of mange, providing medication in food may not be enough, and the fox will need to be caught in order to undergo treatment at a rescue centre. We have also explained how to achieve this below.

Homeopathic treatment 

Homempathic mange treatments often consist of arsenicum, sulphur, or psorinum. They are natural remedies that do not require a vet prescription. Psnorium can be purchased online by following this link. It is important to follow the instructions perfectly for these treatments, for the best chance of a successful result.

 

Whilst there is no concrete data on the efficacy of homeopathic mange treatments, many veteran rescuers will vouch for their effectiveness in moderate cases of mange, affecting up to 40% of the body. Crucially, if homeopathic treatment is accidentally ingested by a different animal - such as a cat, dog, or a hedgehog - it will do no harm. If a prescription medication is accidentally ingested by a non-target species on the other hand, it may kill or cause serious illness due to overdose, or due to the sensitivities to common mange medications in certain breeds of dog. 

 

This is why many rescue organisations feel that homeopathic treatments are the most responsible option for treating mange in foxes in the wild. If you cannot guarantee 100% that the infected fox will be the one to eat the medicated food, then prescription medication is not a safe option. If the mange is particularly severe however, homeopathy may not be enough to cause a significant improvement in the foxes’ condition, and capture may be the only way forward.

Prescription treatment

Prescription treatment for mange often takes the form of orally administered ivermectin, which can be concealed in food and given directly to the infected fox. It must be prescribed by a veterinary professional and has a high success rate. 

 

There are rescue organisations that will prescribe this medication to the public, on the condition that the person can ensure 100% that the infected fox will be the one to eat the food with the medicine in. If a different animal accidentally consumes the food containing the medication, it may kill them or make them seriously unwell. This treatment is considered too risky by some in the wildlife rescue field for this reason.

 

The organisations that may provide prescription mange medication include South Essex Wildlife Hospital, which can be contacted on 01375 893893, and the Fox Angels who can be contacted via Facebook Messenger. It is vitally important to follow the instructions given by these organisations for any prescription treatments extremely carefully - these are medications known to cause adverse effects in animals if used incorrectly.

 

If mange is severe and there is no way to ensure that the infected fox will eat the medicated food, then we suggest contacting a rescue organisation to potentially arrange capture of the fox instead.

Severe mange
Severe mange

Photo provided by the Fox Project. This mange is so advanced that it required capture and treatment by a wildlife rescue organisation.

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A fox with severe mange.
A fox with severe mange.

This fox had such severe mange it required capture and treatment at a wildlife rescue organisation. He was transported by the GWN to the Fox Project and made a full recovery.

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Capture

In the most severe cases of mange, when a fox is noticeably weak, almost completely bald, or entirely covered in the scabs typical of the infection, then capture and treatment at a wildlife rescue organisation is the preferable option. The fox will likely need antibiotics to treat secondary skin infection in addition to mange treatment, at the very least. 

 

To achieve this, a rescue organisation will often need to loan you a specialised fox trap, which can be baited with food and must be checked regularly to prevent other animals from accidentally becoming trapped. Once the fox is caught in the trap, the organisation will then collect him or her or ask you to drop the fox (inside the trap!) to a rescue organisation.

 

To improve the chances of the fox entering the trap, it can help to get the fox into a regular feeding pattern.

 

It isn’t always possible to loan a trap for use on public land, due to a lack of permission or the possibility of theft or damage. Contact one of the organisations listed above to discuss the foxes’ specific circumstances, and explore all possible options.

On rare occasions, if a fox is so badly infected with mange that it is collapsed or immobile, it may be possible for the fox to be caught without the use of a trap.

Advice - Fox Cubs
 
A tangled fox cub - tangled animals often need treatment
A tangled fox cub - tangled animals often need treatment

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Foxes are born with black fur
Foxes are born with black fur

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In March and April in particular, wildlife rescue organisations are flooded with calls and messages about lone fox cubs, as this is the period in which youngsters first begin emerging from their dens. 

 

Sometimes, these cubs will need the assistance of a wildlife rescue organisation. In many instances however, they are perfectly fine - it is not unusual for mother foxes to leave their cubs alone for short periods, or to move one cub at a time. They merely need to be observed from afar, and their parents should soon return for them. 
 

If removed prematurely, it can often become very difficult to reunite a young fox with his or her family. Sadly, well-meaning members of the public do remove cubs unnecessarily every year, and as a result, many hundreds end up in rescue centres, where they are forever separated from their families and require huge amounts of time and energy to raise and return to the wild.

 

It’s therefore very important that you DO NOT TOUCH or disturb a cub if you see one out alone. Observe the cub from a distance and contact a rescue organisation immediately for advice, with the animal still kept in your sight. The only exceptions to this rule are:

  • If the cub is in immediate danger - for example, if it is in the road. Move it to a safe spot nearby, and then observe from a distance and contact a rescue organisation. The mother fox will not automatically abandon the cub because you have touched it; this is a myth.
     

  • The cub is surrounded by flies - this is a sign of flystrike, which requires urgent treatment by a rescue organisation.

 

  • The cub is visibly injured, unwell, trapped, or tangled and will require veterinary treatment. Cubs that are tangled in netting often need treatment and cannot just be simply released.

 

  • The cub is old enough to walk around, and has visibly droopy ears rather than pointy ears - this can be a sign of dehydration. Although we still suggest observing from a distance before you intervene, please mention this symptom when you contact a rescue organisation for further instruction.

 

Foxes Don't Make Good Pets!

Please do not, under any circumstances, attempt to hand-rear a fox cub yourself, or to keep one as a pet. It is extremely difficult to raise an orphaned cub correctly with no prior knowledge or experience, and something as simple as feeding dairy milk can kill. 

 

A fox will also simply never adapt to life in a home. They are not like dogs, which have been domesticated on a genetic level over thousands of years. Foxes are wild, and will remain that way even if you have raised them from a young age. They may be cute as cubs, but they will destroy your home as adults, and will be very unhappy confined to a house for life, without the company of other foxes. Every year, rescue organisations are contacted about foxes that members of the public have found at a young age and attempted to "tame". Do what's best for the cub - don't put your desire for a cool pet before their well being.

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A Popular Myth

In late February and throughout March and April, it's not uncommon for wildlife rescue organisations to receive reports from the public about foxes killing kittens or cats and carrying them in their mouths. In reality, these are not cats but fox cubs - foxes rarely pose a threat to cats. Fox cubs have black fur in their early weeks of life, which gradually turns orange as they mature. A vixen will also often move her young from one den to another by carrying them in her mouth, one cub at a time.

 

If disturbed or startled, she may drop a cub, but will usually return to retrieve it when the coast is clear. This is why it's so important if you find a lone fox cub, to monitor it from afar and call a rescue organisation for advice before intervening - unless of course, the cub is in immediate danger from cars or other animals. If you have to, move a cub to a safer spot nearby - the mother fox will not abandon it because you have touched it, this is also a myth.

 

Image provided by the Fox Project.

 

The mating season for foxes occurs between December and February. Foxes are very noisy and active during this period, and it’s not unusual to hear their mating calls throughout the night, or see them out and about in daylight. 

 

Sadly, it is also the period in which foxes are most likely to be involved in road traffic accidents, or become injured; their determination to find a mate makes them less cautious than usual, and rivalry and conflict between males is commonplace. It's important for drivers to be extra vigilant about avoiding foxes on the road at this time of year; they may dart across suddenly if being pursued, or in pursuit, of another fox.

 

During this period, rescue organisations also receive lots of calls about foxes seemingly “stuck together” by their back ends. This is called “tying” and is a normal part of the mating process for members of the canine family. It’s important not to disturb foxes engaged in this process as separating too quickly may cause injury. If you encounter foxes in this uncompromising position, simply keep your distance and leave them to it - they will separate in their own time. The image below shows two foxes in the tied position, and was provided by the Fox Project.

​Advice - Mating Season

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​Advice - Foxes in your garden

 

"There's a fox living in my garden and I don't want it there - can you come and get it and move it somewhere else?"

We get this request all the time, and the short answer is no. Relocating foxes isn't the simple solution it seems to be. No reputable rescue organisation will do it.

 

Foxes have their own territories, so moving a fox from one area to another means placing it into another foxes' territory. This will inevitably cause conflict and fighting that often results in the new fox being hounded, potentially chased out into roads and killed, or being displaced - wandering aimlessly with no place to call home.

Then there is the distress caused to a fox that finds itself suddenly dumped in an unfamiliar area. Any wildlife rescue volunteer or employee who has had to pursue a sick or injured fox knows how intimately they know their own territory. They will seem to suddenly vanish as they have every escape route and hidey hole mapped out in their memory within a certain mile radius. Placing a fox in a strange place means that it has no knowledge of nearby hazards, food sources, water sources, places to rest or spots suitable for making a den and will be competing for all of these resources with the foxes already settled in the area. It will struggle to survive.

All of the above potentially constitutes a breach of the Animal Welfare Act as it means causing considerable suffering and may result in the animal's death. Very, very rarely foxes can be relocated through a process called soft release, but this requires a special outdoor enclosure and isn't an option in the vast majority of cases.

Some pest controllers may offer "humane" trapping and relocation for foxes. If they are indeed relocating foxes, then this far from humane and likely not even technically legal. Often however, they simply reassure the person that has hired them that they will be relocating the trapped fox - then take it away and shoot it.

Finally, relocating foxes doesn't even work in a practical sense, because removing one fox creates a vacant territory. Within a few months to a year, another fox will likely move in to fill this territory, taking you back to square one and causing a whole lot of suffering to the previous vulpine occupant to achieve basically nothing.

If you really are encountering constant issues with a fox living in your garden or outdoor space, then there are ways of fox-proofing or deterring foxes which don't require removing them from their territory all together, or killing them. Fox-a-Gon and Humane Wildlife Solutions are two brilliant companies that offer genuinely humane fox deterrence.

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