Increase in foxes visiting urban gardens since the outbreak of the pandemic

May 29th, 2021 7:05 AM

By Brian Moore

Fox cubs are getting ready to leave their dens in June.

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There has been a reported increase in the number of foxes venturing into urban areas across West Cork with lots of homeowners encountering the ‘Madra Rua’ in their gardens.

And the advice from Aoife McPartlin, Education Officer at Wildlife Rehabilitation Ireland (WRI) is to remember they are wild animals, to enjoy the show they put on, but not to feed them. 

Urban foxes are very common in Dublin, seen roaming Grafton St and O’Connell St by night, and fox dens have been identified near Dáil Éireann. 

But for residents in places like Clonakilty, Bandon and Skibbereen, these visitors are a new arrival. April is the breeding season and foxes are more active but this isn’t the main reason for our perceived increase in the numbers of foxes out and about in West Cork. 

Aoife McPartlin, WRI, sees the increase in the number of fox sightings as an indication of how more aware we all are of the wildlife around us.

‘Last year there was an increase in the number of urban foxes sightings but that was due to the lack of movement on our streets,’ Aoife said.

‘People have become far more aware of the local wildlife simply because we are all spending much more time at home and can see what is going on, and has been going on, everyday in our local neighbourhoods.’

Right now there are lots of young cubs who were born in March and April with the vixens in their dens. Cubs are born blind, and are not very foxy with dark brown coats.

These cubs will climb out of their dens in June and if you’re lucky you’ll see them playing together in your area.

However, they are very inquisitive and just like young puppies they will chew toys and shoes and anything else if they find them in your back garden. Foxes can also do damage to lawns and flowerbeds as they root around for grubs and insects.

So, what should you do if you encounter a fox in your garden?

‘The first thing to remember is that foxes are far more afraid of you than you are of them,’ Aoife said. ‘They are beautiful animals but they are wild animals and we have to remember that. You don’t need to do anything just enjoy the show.’

However, Aoife does not encourage you to feed foxes if they are frequenting your garden.

‘I would tell people not to feed them. There are also a lot of cubs coming in to us [at the WFI hospital, the country’s first wildlife hospital] who are victims of littering. Heads caught in plastic containers, tangled in football netting (this can cut off blood supply), stuck in plastic bags and coffee cups etc. It doesn’t make for pretty reading, but really, we are far more detrimental to them than they are to us,’ Aoife said.

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