Identification

A fox looks like a small dog, with characteristic red fur and bushy tale tipped with white. Its muzzle is pointed and white fur extends from under the chin to the neck and on to the underbelly.

Size

Foxes don’t weigh much more than cats, ranging from 4-8kg (9-18lb). Their body and head measure between 62-72cm (25-29in) long, with females smaller than males. Their tail can be anything from 37-44cm (15-18in) long.

Distribution

They are found in most of the UK, including quite a few islands.

Status

They are abundant everywhere, despite some attacks of mange in previous decades. They do not have any conservation status or protection, although there are laws governing when and how they may be hunted or caught.

Habitat preference

Foxes appear to be widely adaptable, living in a variety of habitats, from farmland to mountains, from salt marsh to sand dunes. They have also moved into urban areas and thrive there as well. In fact they are probably more numerous in urban rather than rural environments. The fox population was severely reduced by mange (a parasitic skin infection) in the 1990s, but populations appear to be recovering slowly.

Where to find them in the garden

Garden walls are no barriers to foxes; they can scale walls as high as 2m (6 1/2ft). They are likely to have a relatively small range in urban areas, but much larger ranges in the countryside.

In urban areas there is a chance they may live in gardens and even breed there. Their den could be under the garden shed, in it, or in any other suitable building. It could be underground or above ground, and they will happily take over other animals’ disused dens; for example badger setts.

If foxes breed nearby you may be most aware of them at mating time in the winter months or rewarded by the site of cubs in spring. Autumn is usually a time for young foxes to disperse.

Role in the garden

Foxes have wide tastes and diet, which will vary depending on what they can find in their location, whether crabs (by the sea), small mammals (in the countryside), or scraps scavenged or put out by householders (urban areas).

Foxes will also scavenge from compost heaps and dustbins. And they will target small pets kept outside, if the pets are not securely caged.

Foxes may dig or foul in the garden, the latter being their way of marking their territory. If you find these activities to be a problem, the best and most humane way to deal with this is by deterrence, using fox repellent products.