Urban foxes; most of us have them whether we like it or not. Personally, I love them but I know they divide our neighbourhood into two distinct camps. Those who put out prime beef dog food and cavity protecting crunchy biscuits and those who tut in dismay at the scatter of litter left behind once the foxes finish their two course supper. Well at least I don’t put out serviettes.
I have managed to reduce the litter problem by placing the main course on the lid of an ice cream tub instead of in the tub itself. Evidently, it is considered good social etiquette in fox circles to carry your plate half way up the road and to deposit a small brown calling card inside as way of a tip. I wouldn’t suggest you try that at Pizza Express but it seems to work well for the foxes and goes some way to ensuring that they have a priority reservation at any future dining events. They can’t seem to pick the lid up though, so I am able to go out early each morning and discretely remove the evidence.
The first time I saw ‘our fox’ he was in need of a snack. He was curled up under a parked car right down the end of our cul de sac street. I noticed him because it was broad daylight and I thought, doesn’t this fox know what time it is? This is the time to be tucked up in your den with daytime tv. ‘So what are you doing out here?’ I asked the fox, bending down to get a good look under the car. He raised his head and looked at me with the weary eye of the defeated. He made no attempt to get away, so I knew he was in trouble. I only park down this end of the street when all the terraced houses in our road have offered up their spaces to other vehicles and as I walked back I wondered what to do.
I called our local animal rescue centre who asked if the fox passed the broom test. If he did they would come and pick him up. If that fox is handy with a broom then I’ll keep him myself I thought. It turns out that the broom test means that you can get close enough to the fox to touch him with the end of a broom and he doesn’t run away. ‘Pretty much a dead fox then,’ I said. ‘Yep pretty much,’ came the reply. I didn’t think he was that bad yet but I kept it in mind as I looked about my kitchen for some scraps of food. Now I’m sure that an expert like Chris Packham would object to the feeding of wild animals but I couldn’t just leave him to starve and urban foxes are more scavenger than hunter, so I opened up a sachet of chicken with rabbit and tossed it into an old plastic tub. Then I put some water on top in case he was dehydrated.
I wandered back down the road trying to look casual. The fox had come out from under the car and was standing on the grass verge with his tail hanging limp with mange between his back legs. He was just a youngster trying to make his way in the world. I put the dish down and made safe cooing noises to encourage him over. Of course he just looked up at me suspiciously and stayed put. I backed off, sat down on the kerb and waited. I didn’t have to wait long as this was one hungry fox. In a low crouch he slunk towards the dish and keeping one eye on me, lowered his head to check out the contents. I knew that if I moved he would run off, so I kept still and watched. There is something primordially satisfying about feeding the hungry. I felt the warm glow of Mother Teresa as I watched him cautiously take each mouthful and that was the start of it.
‘Well,’ I said to my husband Bob, ‘we have a choice. We can either have scabby mange ridden foxes round our neighbourhood or we can have the finest foxes in Surrey.’ And with his tacit approval, well I’m sure he looked up from his i pad at least once, operation fox began.
I slowly enticed him to our garden by walking round to his domain with food and gradually leaving it further down the road. It didn’t take long, as fortunately he could smell round corners. Unable to find sufficient scraps I started buying meaty dog food. The crunchy biscuits came later and I swear I only get him pig’s ears as a special treat. I was delighted to find on a visit to our local animal rescue centre that you could get homeopathic
treatments for mange and bought two bottles. Five drops on his food each night was the advised dosage. So every evening I fed the cats, then fed the fox, turned off the lights and went to bed.
I didn’t ever see him but the lid was always licked clean the next morning. It was some months later that I was woken in the night by the distinctive bark of a fox. I threw back the covers and went over to the window. There, standing beneath the arc of the street lamp, was a handsome young fox with his nose in the air and his thick bushy tail proudly held out behind him. Our fox had come of age.