Feed your garden foxes

Providing food for these fantastic mammals is a great way to observe their behaviour.

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Providing food for these fantastic mammals is a great way to observe their behaviour.

We’re incredibly lucky in Britain to have mammals as interesting as foxes in our gardens. Feeding them is exciting and a great way to observe their behaviour.

In January, foxes have luxuriant coats that contrast with bare winter plants. It’s the mating season, so look out for the dog fox courting the vixen. For a brief time, he will allow her the best pickings (for most of the year, he is dominant around food).

The male’s attentive behaviour continues into early spring: you may see him carrying food to his mate while she is underground nursing young cubs.

Later, both adults will gather food until the youngsters are old enough to emerge. Then they are dominant, body-slamming their parents out of the way and snatching tasty morsels from their mouths.

In midsummer, the tables turn: now the cubs are on their own. Come autumn, you should notice tensions rise as the juveniles disperse and the adults start to think of the next generation. It’s a fascinating annual soap opera – but this one is for real.

If you feed foxes, they’ll soon take little notice of intruder lights or your habitual behaviour such as taking out the recycling bins or hanging up washing (though they may be wary of strangers).

So, with luck, they might appear even when you’re in the garden, sitting on their haunches like expectant dogs or curling up in a flowerbed, edging ever closer as feeding time nears.

 

HOW TO FEED FOXES

DO

  • Offer just enough food – this forces your foxes to go foraging elsewhere after a while – and spread it around the lawn or patio so that they all get some.
  • Follow a set feeding routine so that the foxes are waiting for their meal – that way, none of it will go uneaten and attract rats.
  • Experiment to see what your foxes prefer – food they eat on the spot (rather than carry away to cache) is best.

DON'T

  • Overfeed – if you do, the foxes are likely to spend too much time in and around your garden, potentially annoying your neighbours.
  • Try to make the foxes tame – put the food out and watch from a discreet distance.
  • Encourage foxes to come to your back door or into your house to be fed – they may then develop the habit of entering other homes, too.

 

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