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Owl boxes, fox holes and relocation relocation!

Date posted: Wednesday 29th November 2017

Owl boxes, fox holes and relocation relocation!

Now the leaves are almost off the trees we can see the owl boxes put up earlier with help from the Royal Parks team. There’s evidence of something having a peck around the entrance but no sign of owls taking up residence so far this year!

Someone who has taken up residence has created a dilemma for the committee – a very substantial fox hole, going down a good 50cm and no one knows how far under a plot! The pile of excavated soil outside the hole is covered with tell-tale paw prints; the current plotholder has been absent for a while and the neighbouring plotholders were away, so the fox must have decided it was a quiet, secluded site for a new den/earth and got stuck in! The neighbouring plotholders said they’re happy to leave things as they are. If we do see the fox leave the hole we may be able to cover it over and persuade it to re-locate elsewhere, preferably at the back of the site in the wildlife area.

Foxes are enjoying city living even more than we thought. The number of red foxes in urban areas of England appears to have soared almost fivefold. The rise from an estimated 33,000 in the 1990s to 150,000 today seems to have happened largely because foxes have appeared in new areas, or multiplied in low-density towns, particularly in the north of the country. In southern cities, numbers seem to be static.
Meanwhile, paradoxically, overall sightings in England have plummeted by 43 per cent over the past 20 years. Red foxes (Vulpes vulpes) are flourishing in urban areas across the globe. They were first reported in towns in southern England in the 1930s. A citizen science initiative in 2012 found that over 90 per cent of English and Welsh towns that reported no foxes in 2001 were now home to them. “They are more or less resident in all cities in the UK now,” says Dawn Scott at the University of Brighton, UK, who presented her as-yet-unpublished findings at the British Ecological Society in Liverpool on 11-14 December.
Her team used radio-tagging to understand the size of fox social groups and the extent of their territories. They also asked residents in eight cities to report July and August sightings from 2013 to 2015. By combining these sightings with models constructed from the tagging, they calculated fox densities in different towns and cities across England. Top of the list is Bournemouth, at 23 foxes per km2. London registered 18 per km2. In Brighton, the population is 16 per km2.Further north, Newcastle is now home to about 10 foxes per km2. “The densities in the north have actually increased. The densities in the south have not,” Scott told the meeting. “It doesn’t look like London is overrun by foxes.”
Extrapolating from these figures, the team estimates that there are nearly 150,000 urban foxes in England – about one for every 300 urban residents. But Stuart Newson of the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO), in Thetford, Norfolk, cautioned about producing a national estimate from local figures. While it is straightforward to obtain fox densities in a particular location, extrapolating to estimate overall population size “is one of the most difficult things to do”.
(Aisling Irwin