Pest controllers have warned of a boom in feral foxes plaguing the Capital, with claims that a partial cull is needed to keep thousands of the animals in check.
Growing concerns over the bold behaviour of foxes in Edinburgh were voiced as Craigentinny/Duddingston councillor Alex Lunn said he had been inundated with calls about the wild creatures, whom he said had “lost their fear” of humans.
Problems reported include foxes attacking pets, raiding bins and dragging rubbish including chewed bones and the remains of takeaways into the street, and leaving “particularly foul-smelling” faeces in people’s back yards.
And pest control experts claim the move to fortnightly bin collections has swollen the population of foxes in the city.
Cllr Lunn estimated he had received 30 direct complaints about foxes in his ward during the past six months and called on the Scottish Government to investigate options for better controlling the animals. He said: “If they lose their fear, it’s obviously not a far step from them going into people’s houses and indeed they have in other parts of the country.
“I hate to sound like a horrible person, but I’m really starting to think a cull is required.”
Local fears over the risk posed by urban foxes have come in the wake of four-week-old baby Denny Dolan suffering hand and facial injuries after being attacked by one of the animals in his south-east London home last Wednesday.
Pestforce Edinburgh owner George Buchan said he had noticed a big increase in urban fox numbers across Edinburgh in the past five years.
He said he received about five direct inquiries a month and predicted it was only a matter of time before a fox attack against a person or child occurred in the Capital.
Mr Buchan said: “If I’m out, every night I see foxes. It’s right across the city.
“I think there’s a load of near misses in terms of fox attacks that are never recorded.
“Unfortunately, and I hate to say it, I think it’s only a matter of time until it happens up here because people are feeding them.”
The annual mating season for foxes in Britain traditionally runs from January to April.
Simon Milne, chief executive for the Scottish Wildlife Trust, conceded fox numbers in the Lothians could run into the thousands.
He said last year’s fortnightly bins fiasco, in which rubbish went uncollected by Edinburgh City Council for up to six weeks, represented the ideal conditions to attract urban foxes.
Mr Milne said: “I think people need to remember that foxes are wild animals and need to be treated as such. The main issue is twofold – people feeding foxes, which is not a good idea, and secondly the amount of rubbish that’s lying around in our city today is encouraging foxes to come in.”
Expert David Gribbins, owner of Edinburgh Pest Control, said reducing bin collections across Edinburgh had played a significant role in boosting urban fox numbers.
“If there is fortnightly collections then you have more rubbish gathering for longer,” he said.
“You get black bin liners lying at the side of bins that will encourage foxeds – and seagulls – to scavange.
“Foxes are becoming more bold and you have seen what can happen in London.
“People have got to remember that they are wild animals and opportunists. We don’t want to lose the urban fox but dont want to encourage them into houses.”
Countryside Alliance Scotland director Jamie Stewart said that a partial cull of foxes in Edinburgh would only represent a “plaster on the wound”.
He said: “We need to take responsibility for it and recognise that wildlife in the 21st century in the UK does not manage itself.”
A 37-year-old who blacked out in an Inveresk cemetery in 2010 had his nose and fingers bitten off in a suspected fox attack.
Firrhill pensioner Margaret O’Shaughnessy, then 88, suffered a three-inch long mark to her leg after being bitten by a fox in her back garden in 2004.
But Scottish SPCA Wildlife Rescue Centre manager Colin Seddon said he had never known a wild fox to attack a person in 30 years of working with wildlife.
He said: “Generally speaking, wild foxes do not present a threat to the public. But they should be left alone and admired from a distance.”
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‘They’re not aggressive’
EAST Lothian councillor John Caldwell said foxes in Musselburgh were so tame he had witnessed them
following him down his own street.
Cllr Caldwell said the animals were a common sight along the stretch from Newhailes to Pinkie roads, with Corstorphine Hill another hot spot.
He said: “They wander about the streets here where I stay. Late at night I’ve been walking down my street in Park Lane and they’ve been walking on the other side of the road and they’re not bothered.
“They can be prowling through the gardens at night, but they’re not aggressive. If you chase them they’ll go away.”