We have around 258,000 adult foxes currently living in the UK, although the number of rural foxes is sadly in decline.
Foxes are omnivores and expert hunters who eat a diverse range of food — from rodents and rabbits, to frogs and earthworms, to berries and fruit.
However, urban foxes live on a very different diet to their rural counterparts. With less choice on offer, urban foxes often dine on rodents and birds and top their meals up by scavenging in rubbish bins.
In Barnet, London, last month, a fox cub got itself into difficulty on school grounds when it pushed its head through a hole in a bin lid (no doubt to look for food) and couldn't pull its head back out again. The RSPCA were called to rescue the fox, and a larger hole had to be cut in the bin lid to free the trapped animal.
Animal Collection Officer, Mariam Adwan, of the RSPCA said of the incident:
"This juvenile fox had got himself into a real pickle. He was really scared, poor thing. I managed to calm him down and checked whether I could gently ease him out, but his cheeks seemed to be the sticking point. This wasn't going to be an easy rescue and I had to find a solution fast. Protecting the fox with one of my hands, I carefully cut a T-shaped slit to open up the hole in the lid. Once I had done that he came out easily and following a quick check up at the vet, I was happy to learn he was unscathed by his ordeal."
Searching for food in wheelie bins has got many a fox into a spot of bother, but this isn't the only way foxes end up inside our bins.
Also in May 2019, another fox cub was rescued from a wheelie bin by the RSPCA, after a homeowner in Croydon, London, heard a strange noise coming from the bins near her home. She lifted the lid on each waste container and was surprised to find a distressed fox cub inside one of them.
"This poor little chap was cowering amongst the discarded drinks cans and food containers at the bottom of the bin. He was making quite a noise. There's a drop from the house's front garden down to the bins, so we think he may have been playing in the garden, then slipped over the edge and fallen straight into the bin! As the sides of the bin were slippery and steep, there was no way he would have been able to get out on his own, so it’s lucky the householder spotted him when she did."
Both foxes were luckily unharmed after their ordeals, and were quickly returned to the wild.
In order to keep foxes out of your rubbish bins, you could keep the containers locked using a triangular key lock.
Another option, if you have regular visits to your garden from foxes, is to feed them in another area of your garden — far away from where your bins are stored. They enjoy raw and cooked meat, tinned dog food, cheese, fruit, and peanuts. This will lessen the appeal of your bins.
If you do decide to feed your foxy friends, make sure you're not putting too much food out, as they will become reliant on it, and leftovers will attract rodents. Also, in that scenario, they may take food away with them to store elsewhere — which is fine unless it's in your next door neighbour's garden and they're not very happy about it!
If you have any concerns about the welfare of a fox or any other animal, please get in touch with the RSPCA via their 24-hour hotline, on 0300 1234 999.