I had a call last week from a local Newbury landowner and property agent who said one of his farm tenants had an issue with foxes – not the normal one of worrying sheep but that they were digging up his garden and terrorising his elderly cat!
An unusual Fox control problem like this is was too good to resist, so I went down to see the tenant that day to discuss the issue.
Sure enough, a brace of foxes has systematically destroyed the new lawn that was only put down a few months earlier. If I had not been pre-warned, I would never have guessed a fox would do this much damage – it looked like a wild boar had been rooting and I would have had to have guessed this! They had also dug up the fence line and made runs everywhere in and around the garden. The tenant said that most evenings the foxes would come and dig up the garden whilst they looked on from the lounge window.
So I performed a survey of the old farm buildings to establish presence, and sure enough they had been living in the old cow shed, and in the hay barns. Evidence of recent meals and faeces were everywhere, as well as half-eaten apples, again quite a strange food source.
The survey also allowed me to do a complete safety check on the area for safe shooting and highlighted some good areas to sit up as well as trap if necessary. The tenant and his neighbour both were pretty sceptical of me dealing with this problem and delighted in telling me so!
My first visit was fruitless – the sky’s opened up and we had torrential rain – nothing would ever show in these circumstances so back to the office to catch up on paperwork.
Last nights visit was very different. It was the first sunshine we had seen for a few days and so I knew with some certainty that Charlie would come out to play.
I arrived about 4pm and parked in one of the areas I had picked to sit, checked all was safe for shooting and just waited as the sun went down. Over the years I have shot hundreds of foxes in various fox control situations and you get to know what they might do under certain circumstances. I suspected that these were 2 cubs, born into urban surroundings and had found easy pickings in the orchard from insects and fruit with the odd rabbit or pheasant to add to the pot.
As the sun started to drop, I started to Call them. This technique is very effective on fox cubs and also draws the foxes into the killing zone you have chosen. Fox Calling takes years of practice – to getting it right pays massive dividends and results, but getting it wrong and the fox becomes shy and difficult to deal with.
I did not have to wait long before Charlie came to the Call – literally running at me – too close to shoot! She stood and looked at me for about a minute – only 10 meters away – until then trotting off to her favourite digging area – 60 meters from me. Unfortunately, she decided to dig under the garden furniture, so I had to wait until a shot was possible.
Then without warning, she stopped digging and went to the front door, almost expecting to be let in! This kind of took me by surprise but I just held my nerve until she turned to go through the hedge and away. A final Call from me and it was all over for her as she stopped to look at me once more.
I sat for a further 10 minutes to see if the other one showed, but no sign.
Needless to say, the tenant was delighted with this result. I was surprised to discover she was an old vixen and not a cub as I first thought.
I am back later in the week to find the other one. Then the garden can then be restored to its former glory and Tibbles can resume his normal pattern without fear of being eaten!