Are urban fox attacks on the rise after baby attack?

The risks of people being attacked by an urban fox are negligible compared to the risks of being attacked by a domestic dog or cat, and foxes are usually more of a risk for pets, besides being a nuisance to gardens, but a South East London fox evidently didn’t know the statistics when he attacked a five-week old baby, severing off one of the boy's fingers.

The nightmare incident occurred in daytime in Bromley, when a fox slipped inside the Donlan home and attacked five-week old Denny and then tried to drag him out the front door.

The baby’s mother Haley, 28 had to fight off the fox with kicks and punches and was forced to rip her child’s hand and wrist from the animal’s jaws before he let go, leaving the child bleeding copiously and in need of immediate medical attention.

Denny was rushed to trauma unit at King’s College Hospital in Camberwell and was diagnosed with two severed arteries and had to undergo surgery to reattach a severed finger.

According to the mother, “There are always foxes hanging around there, even during the day because people keep dumping rubbish on the green. I’ve seen pieces of raw meat left out on the ground where people have dumped their waste.

The shell-shocked mum also added, “I used to be one of those who says foxes are harmless wild animals that are more frightened of us than we are of them. Now I think something should be done to get rid of foxes around people’s houses. If a dog had done this it would have been destroyed. But that fox is still out there and could do this again. I’d hate this to happen to another child.”

There is an estimated 33,000 adult foxes living in urban areas – about 14% of the total population – which is mainly due to urban sprawl, diminishing natural habitat and the better opportunity to find food, and they are usually shy and avoid humans, but according to John Bryant, an expert in their humane deterrence, an urban fox is accustomed to people, "Thousands of people feed them, encourage them into their gardens and those that are not fed always find food on the streets."

So what can we do to deter these pesky animals, before there is a knee jerk reaction and a call for widespread culling.

The rules are pretty simple, first off don’t feed them no matter how cute they look, avoid temptation by leaving cat, dog or bird food outside your homes, with no food available the neighborhood fox won’t come snooping around.

Also avoid using garden fertilizers that contain fish, bone or blood products, that will stop foxes from digging and searching where that tantalizing smell is coming from.

There are also several chemical deterrents and scare products that are on available in garden centers, but if you want to go down the more natural route, human male urine is often said to work as a pest control agent, but if you have a dog walk it around the perimeter of your yard, allowing the animal to scent-mark and this could discourage a fox from crossing into your dog's territory.

If you have caged rabbits or chickens, make sure all cages are fox-proofed: heavy mesh wire, wire or solid floor, a secure latch that can't be worked loose. Use a heavy strap on your trash container to hold the lid. Use a lidded composting bin or enclose your compost pile on all sides with welded mesh wire, not chicken wire, try planting Coleus canina, the "scaredy-cat plant".

And if in rare chance that you do get bitten, head immediately over to the nearest emergency room to be treated because the animals can carry diseases and parasites.

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