What Would London Be Like Without Foxes?

Laura Reynolds
By Laura Reynolds Last edited 76 months ago

Last Updated 18 February 2018

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.