The red fox is the most widespread and numerous predator in Britain.


Foxes and Humans

The fox has been hunted by humans for thousands of years. Its thick red fur has always been in demand; an increase in the popularity of fox fur in the late 1970s caused many more foxes than usual to be killed. However, with the decline in fur prices, this trade has decreased substantially. Red foxes are hunted for sport, though hunting with packs of hounds is now illegal. 

Farmers have always considered the fox a pest because it will prey on poultry and lambs. Nowadays, most chickens are caged up securely so the fox rarely gets the chance to steal them. Foxes have often been accused of killing lambs but they rarely attack strong, healthy lambs; they may, however, take sickly and dead ones. Even though thousands of foxes are killed in Britain every year by hunting and shooting, the overall population does not seem to be affected and foxes are in no danger of becoming rare.

In continental Europe, foxes carry the fatal disease rabies. If a rabid fox bites a pet dog, which in turn bites a person, the virus can be passed on to man. Great Britain is free of rabies but should it ever be accidentally introduced it may possibly be transmitted quickly through the fox population, particularly the urban one. Detailed studies of urban foxes are being carried out and the more we know about their social life the better we can plan how to deal with any future occurrence of rabies.

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