Urban Foxes – Friend Or Foe?

Foxes are a regular sight in the Mapperley area. They have lived among us for generations. Being wild animals, they naturally fear humans, and keep themselves to themselves. That said some do become more tame (either due to a health issue or that they are being fed) and as a result are more comfortable near humans.

We received this message in March 2024 which caused some interest:

Can you ask if anyone has had an experience with a fox around Whittingham Road?  One just followed me and my dog, really intimidating and in a crouching position.  Wasn’t scared by me shouting at it. My husband and daughter came and it then followed her and ran after my daughter (she’s 20). Totally used to fox’s in the garden and around – never had an experience like that!

It seems that many people had encountered this fox. Whilst some were unnerved by it, there were no reports of it attacking anyone though.

One person added some context to the history of our local foxes.

I used to live on Robinson Road 25 years ago and three foxes then used to come and jump on my wall, I’d knock on the window and they used to look and smile at me 🤣🤣 also would very often see them walking up and down the road, very friendly, but intimidating when they follow you!

Are They A Threat? What Should we Do?

Following further reports of a fox in Mapperley Top that was unfazed by humans and concerns from cat owners after incidents during the night, we decided to find out more about these fascinating creatures.

The best place to start was a fox rescue charity that has supported foxes in the Nottingham area.

The Fox Rescuers is a charity which specialises in the rescue, rehabilitation and subsequent release of foxes. It offers an advice line for the Nottingham area. 

Feeding Foxes

There’s a simple rule: Feed them but don’t over feed them.

Here’s what Fox rescuers told us:

Foxes are omnivores, eating a combination of insects, small mammals, birds, fruits and whatever they can scavenge. They are opportunistic and adaptable and will eat whatever is available.

If you choose to feed your local foxes, good nutritious food could include tinned dog food, cooked meats (no cooked bones), raw meat on the bone such as raw chicken thighs etc., plain peanuts, bits of fruit ie pieces of apples/pears, eggs (raw in or out of the shell, or cooked). Leaving fresh water out is a good idea too. However, we recommend that you only support feed, giving small amounts of good nutritious food, rather than giving large amounts of food. We would also recommend that you scatter the food around (instead of putting it all in one pile), vary the times you feed, and miss a day or two each week. It’s best not to leave food close to your house, try not to let them see you putting food out, and please don’t encourage the fox to trust you, or feed it by hand. Encouraging this behaviour can put the fox at risk and bring it into danger from people who do not like foxes.

Are Foxes A Danger To Cats?

Foxes do not generally pose a danger to cats, in fact in the vast majority of cases they either co-exist without any issue, or the cats have the upper hand! The only real time a fox would be a danger to a cat is during cub season when the fox is defending the den/protecting very young cubs. Cats take birds (even quite large ones), rabbits etc., and in cub season they can take young fox cubs. If a confrontation takes place, in most cases the fox will come off worse as cat bites and scratches are very prone to infection and can result in the death of the fox. We have so many examples of cats and foxes playing together and also of cats displaying that they are very much in control! However, there is always the exception to the rule and these very uncommon instances are what people tend to focus on when trying to prove the local fox is responsible for all the cat deaths/I’m concerned that a fox that visits is not fazed by people. It’s important for us to be able to see some video footage of the fox so we can assess the behaviour.

A tame/friendly fox could either be due to neurological issues, for example toxoplasmosis (which causes them to lose their fear of humans), or it could be that the fox has been encouraged to trust people by someone talking to it, throwing food to it, hand feeding it, which has resulted in the fox becoming too trusting and associating people with food.

In this case it’s learned behaviour and there isn’t much we can do apart from advising people to stop feeding in this way and actively discourage the fox from approaching. If there are real neurological problems then the fox will struggle to survive in the wild and in these circumstances the fox will need trapping. Video footage is very helpful to enable us to differentiate between the two.disappearances in the area. If a fox is seen carrying a cat away it’s far more likely that the cat has been a victim of a road traffic accident and the fox is just taking advantage of an easy meal.

Here’s some images of a local fox that has been supported by Fox Rescuers:

Often around in the day and quite curious. He steers clear of cats is subservient to them when he sees them.

Recently lame on his left hind leg, but was given medication, hidden in peanut butter sandwiches and is now much better.

He just needs help to survive and live his best life, for as long as he can.

Here he is (possibly) making himself comfortable in another garden.

Finally, here’s a short video from May 2020. It was taken in a garden in Mapperley and shows a vixen and her cubs taking a look around.

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