Damage to Lawns and Gardens
The urban fox can play havoc in your garden. Damage to lawns is sometimes caused by foxes attracted by the presence of invertebrate turf pests such as leatherjackets and chafers. Flower beds and vegetable patches can be disturbed as foxes establish an earth, bury food, or help themselves to fruit and vegetables.
Risk of Disease
Whilst it is responsible to draw your attention to the potential hazards associated by living in close proximity to the red fox it is also important to keep the level of threat in perspective.
Foxes can carry a range of parasites and diseases relevant to the health of domestic pets and people.
As members of the canine family foxes are known to harbour numerous contagious diseases which can effect the health of pet dogs.
Toxocariasis This is the most common disease which foxes are likely to transmit to man. It is caused by a parasitic roundworm in the fox, toxocara canis. Microscopic toxocara eggs are present in the faeces of infected animals. These eggs have thick, sticky shells which means that they can remain infective in the soil for two to four years after the faeces have disappeared. The sticky shell helps eggs to adhere to fingers or clothing.
Humans can become infected with toxocara by accidentally swallowing the infective Toxocara eggs. This is why crawling babies and toddlers are most at risk; they tend to put dirty fingers and toys into their mouths. Medical records show that approximately 100 new cases of Toxocariasis are diagnosed each year. Once swallowed, Toxocara eggs release larvae into the intestine. These larvae travel through the body until they die, which may take several years.
The symptoms of this disease can be unpleasant and difficult to treat. They can include stomach upset and pain, headache, sore throat, wheezing and listlessness. In some cases, larvae reach the eyes where they can cause sight problems and in some cases blindness.
Domestic cats and dogs are prone to a form of this disease as well so cleaning up after their fouling is just as important.
- It is important to always clear up fox faeces as soon as possible using a poop scoop and bag and to deposit it in a safe and secure bin. This is so as not to allow sufficient time for any roundworm eggs to incubate.
Weil’s disease (Leptospirosis) Foxes are also susceptible to Weil’s disease (Leptospirosis) Which is a potentially life threatening condition and can be passed on to domestic pets and humans via contact with their urine.
Hydatid disease is a parasitic infestation by a tapeworm of the genus Echinococcus. It can result in the formation of cysts or parasitic tumours usually to the liver though lung, brain and bone can also be infected. It can be transmitted to humans either by directly ingesting food items or drinking water that is contaminated with stool from an infected animal or by petting or having other contact with cats and dogs that have been infected by proximity to foxes. These pets may shed the eggs in their stool, and their fur may be contaminated. They may also contaminate other objects, such as harnesses or leashes, which can also spread infection.
Sarcoptic Mange is a highly contagious skin condition which is caused by mites and results in irritation and extensive loss of hair. It can be fatal if left untreated. Foxes can pass mange on to dogs if they frequent each others' living space. If the infected dog then sleeps on beds or furniture, everyone will begin scratching. Fortunately scabies in humans is self-limiting, that is the mite can burrow under the skin and cause itching, but cannot complete its life cycle on humans and dies within a few weeks.
Fleas and ticks are carried by most foxes.
Rabies Britain is currently rabies-free, but in countries where rabies occurs foxes can contract and pass on the disease.
Risk to Pets
Given the opportunity foxes will kill small domestic pets such as rabbits, birds, guinea pigs and kittens. Unlike many predators foxes have the habit of killing more than they need to eat immediately. They may subsequently return for any uneaten corpses. Any small domestic animal should be securely protected with galvanised weld mesh or electrified fencing. Chicken wire is insufficient protection as it was designed to keep chickens in rather than to keep predators out.