After an attack on a four week old baby in Bromley, there are renewed calls for a cull on urban foxes. Mayor of London Boris Johnson has argued more needs to be done to deal with the estimated 30,000 foxes that live in our towns and cities.
These city-dwelling scavengers live off scraps left outside homes and businesses but very rarely make human contact and even more infrequently attack harmless human children. However whenever a stealthy, sneaky fox does enter a home and find a harmless child, you can bet it will make headlines.
Foxes could be forgiven for thinking that things had been getting better for them with foxhunting finally banned for being the barbaric sporting slaughter that it is. But now they are faced with the wrath of concerned parents and city dwelling folk who are quick to grab the pitch forks anytime they perceive a threat to their young.
Foxes are undoubtedly beautiful creatures, cute and cuddly in their appearance - but they are also known for their vicious and brutal survival methods. They hunt and kill for food and are well known for the odd skirmish with household pets. My family lost many a rabbit and chicken to the local foxes when I was growing up.
However foxes are also little different to cats that we invite into our homes as domestic pets. They may be wilder and more savage but they both hunt and kill for food and most likely a little bit of pleasure. They are in fact as we are all aware, animals, and animals do things slightly different to us humans.
They are great survivors and an increasing reminder that no matter how much we turn our planet into grim, urban environmental disaster zones, nature will always fight back. Foxes will prevail and a cull is a senseless and cruel massacre of what are incredible creatures.
An adjustment in attitude is required from those calling for a cull. They call foxes a pest and a menace. Farmers and foxhunters have been saying this for years and eliminating those foxes that threaten their land and livelihoods. It is sad but some might say essential. City dwellers are now seeing glimpses of the urban fox more and more frequently and are now also seeing the need to cull the creatures too.
This response to the attack on a baby is understandable. The poor parents of that child must have been terrified and would obviously not wish any other children to go through such an experience. The baby in question has had to have a finger sewn back on and no doubt the situation could have been much worse with even more horrendous consequences had the parents not acted quickly.
But foxes are wild animals and do not know the difference between a human baby and any other small animal. Does that mean we should hastily eradicate them? I would argue not. Just as the RSPCA urge people not to leave food out where foxes can get to it and call instead for humane deterrents, I would also argue that we should embrace our town and city foxes and deal with them with sensible, restrained methods.
They may be getting braver and becoming more tempted to sneak into homes in the search for food to feed themselves and their families but this is a reason to love the fox. They are determined, family-oriented creatures. They may be savage but they are also devoted and determined survivors. They are a rare glimpse at the natural world and their perseverance and presence in our lives should be celebrated.
Resist the calls to cull and instead seek out sensible and sensitive solutions.