May be there was another benefit from Fox hunting in Britain

From today's WSJ (subscription needed):

Londoners are being outfoxed by foxes.

Long associated with Britain's leafy countryside, foxes now have become a common sight here. The creatures, which can trash gardens and leave a foul scent, can make unwelcome neighbors and have prompted some city folk to arm themselves with water jets and traps.

Gillian Alman has raised her fences, sprinkled pepper-laced repellents and even thrown water to scare off the fox that tears up her lawn, destroys her plants and steals shoes left outside. "He's a little demon," says Mrs. Alman, 61 years old, who lives on a street of Victorian houses in Balham, a residential district in south London. "He's so daring, he comes right up to the window and looks at us."

Robert Harris spent more than $2,000 on a new fence for his garden to keep out foxes. But they burrowed under it and continue to tear up his garden as well as gnaw through the television cable and cause Mr. Harris's West Highland terrier to bark at night. "The dog sits by the window and goes berserk," says the 80-year-old Mr. Harris, the former chairman of a theater-makeup supplier called Charles Fox. "It really is a nuisance."

For his next attack, Mr. Harris is eyeing a water-jet device that attaches to a garden hose pipe and fires water when an animal approaches.

Experts say foxes and humans increasingly are brushing up against one another as heaps of urban garbage act as a tasty lure and the city limits spread. It's too early to tell what, if any, effect a recent law limiting fox hunting is having on London's foxes. The fox has become a common feature of the city's landscape like the gray squirrel and the pigeon, both also considered by many to be urban pests.

There are an estimated 10,000 foxes living in the London area, some of them very near the financial district, Buckingham Palace, and No. 10 Downing Street, the prime minister's residence.

Opportunistic omnivores, foxes feed on pet rabbits and guinea pigs, as well as on worms, beetles, birds, rats and fruit. And they can get into spats with cats. Gardens are a particular problem. . . . .


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