Advertisement

Paul Gambaccini: I’ve had to break up mating urban foxes due to ‘shocking’ noise

Paul Gambaccini has complained that he has had to break up urban foxes mating outside his home because of the “shocking” noise they make.

The radio presenter compared the noise to the “sound of children being tortured”, adding that urban foxes had urinated on his copy of the Financial Times as a “symbol of their territory”.

He said he hears the screeching noise once or twice a week from his home in Kennington, south London, adding that he would “not wish on anyone” the experience of interrupting breeding foxes.

Mr Gambaccini told Radio 4’s Today programme on Thursday that it is “amazing” to hear how many other people in London have similar complaints, adding that urban foxes have “really come to town”.

The broadcaster, known as “the Professor of Pop”, said: “It’s really shocking, and, no matter how many times you’ve been woken up by it, it’s bad news.”

“They really do operate with impunity and sometimes they fight as well – a turf war. So it’s a very noisy affair.”

Trevor Williams, founder of The Fox Project rescue charity, said the issue of noise is “totally subjective”, adding that foxes are a “pretty quiet population” apart from two periods of the year.

The high-pitched wails heard in winter are usually made by vixens as they try to summon a mate.

Mr Williams told the PA news agency: “Most people are perfectly happy to live with foxes around because they’re not a problem by and large.

“Foxes are not going to bring attention to themselves if they possibly can avoid it.”

Mr Williams said the mating season between January and February can be “noisy for anyone”, as well as the end of summer, when families of foxes disperse and “break up rather aggressively”.

The number of foxes living across the UK is not officially recorded; however, a 2013 report by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) estimated there were around 430,000 – roughly one fox for every 150 people in the UK.

Mr Williams said the number of urban foxes, estimated to be around 10,000 within the M25 during cub season, “hasn’t really changed much since the mid-1970s”.

Following cub season, the number of foxes decreases to half this number, with populations limited by the amount of food and territory available.

Mr Williams said the proportion of urban foxes in the national fox population is growing as humans move into their territory.

“It’s not that there’s an increase in foxes – it’s simply that we’re all increasing.”

Foxes have been documented in Britain’s southern urban areas since the 1930s.

The Natural History Museum said the expansion of these areas during the inter-war period created an “ideal new habitat with an abundance of food”.

London boroughs were responsible for their resident foxes in the 1970s and attempted culls proved unsuccessful – a fox-control officer killed 300 foxes a year in Bromley but this made no dent in the population, the Natural History Museum said.

Urban fox control was abandoned in the 1980s.

Urban fox
An urban fox looks for food (Peter Byrne/PA)

Mr Williams said the idea that urban foxes are a nuisance comes down to a “lack of understanding of the species”.

He said they “love nice gardens and lawns” because they can dig into them to find chafer grubs and other insects.

He added: “It’s really quite easy to use non-toxic chemical repellents to dissuade them from doing that kind of thing.

“You just need a little bit of fox psychology to know what they’re doing and why they’re doing it.”

Mr Williams, who initially established The Fox Project in 1991 as the Fox Deterrence Consultancy, said one way of repelling foxes is to spray the artificial scent of a competitor on to lawns.