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What Would London Be Like Without Foxes?

By Laura Reynolds Last edited 9 months ago
What Would London Be Like Without Foxes?
Fox in Ealing, May 2015. Photo: Nigel Bewley

Love them or loathe them, foxes are a part of the urban landscape, yet as much as you may want to get rid of them, have you ever stopped to wonder how different London would be without them?

Red foxes have been apex predators in Britain since wolves were hunted to extinction, according to Ian Tokelove of London Wildlife Trust. This means that they are at the top of the urban wildlife food chain — nothing hunts them.

Instead, in London they do a good job of keeping rodent numbers down, hunting rats and mice. If foxes disappeared from the streets and parks of London overnight, it’s likely we’d see an increase in the numbers of rats and house mice, says Tokelove.

You may be rejoicing that your rubbish can sit safely on the streets, without risk of being ripped to pieces by foxes looking for a quick snack, but it may not be so. With foxes out of the way, there may be a small increase in the numbers of other opportunist urban wildlife, such as gulls and crows, who would have less competition when feeding from bins and discarded street food. The extra food lying about that is normally claimed by foxes would also support the rodent population.

While other animal species would likely flourish if foxes were eradicated, flowers may suffer. It's believed that foxes help spread wild seeds from site to site, via their fur and faeces, allowing wild plants to colonise new areas. Ecosystems are complex, so there's no certainty in what would happen if foxes left the city, but London would likely be a lot less colourful.

See also: What would London be like without pigeons?

Read more about London's wildlife.

Last Updated 30 September 2016

Greg Tingey

On our allotments, we tolerate/encourage the foxes - they kill rats & pigeons.
Last year there was a Vixen who was (just) hand-tame, if she realised that you were one of the "friendly" humans.
One had to sit flat, with doggie-bikkies on your fingertips, also held out flat.
On one occasion, she climbed over my legs to get the biscuits, having decided that my gardening boot was actually indeible ....

Neil Cheesman

I like foxes... some others don't... but the FACT is that the population of foxes has increased in cities due to one main reason - and that is the amount of food waste that is readily available on the streets and pavements of London and other cities. Some of the streets in London late at night look more like a rubbish tip... resolve that problem and the number of foxes and other animals that feed on this human waste and the animal population will naturally reduce.

hazel

Hateful creatures - They are noisy, smelly, flea ridden and raid bins, "mark" our front door step, dig up our lawn and urinate everywhere.. They could all disappear overnight and I would be pleased.