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Lewisham Council's advice on urban foxes - don't feed them
DESPITE a recent high profile attack, Lewisham Council says there is no need to be afraid of foxes - just try not to feed them.
Five-week-old Downham boy Dennie Dolan had his finger bitten off by a fox at home last month, leading to calls for a cull of the animals.
But Lewisham Council statistics show there have only been 51 reported problems with the animals since April 2011 - the majority being about injured foxes and only one regarding aggressive behaviour.
Kay Foley, a council animal welfare officer at Ladywell's Wearside Road depot, said: "Foxes are wildlife and should be appreciated as such. Really foxes are having to adapt to living in an urban environment.
"But we have to change our behaviours too."
If people want to avoid having the animals visit their property they are advised to keep their gardens tidy, clearing away any children's toys or other items at the end of the day.
The animals are also drawn to the scents of fishmeal, bonemeal, fertilisers and manures.
Ms Foley said: "I've put shoes outside and they've run off with them. It's just an interesting thing for them. They're very much like dogs, drawn to the scent."
She said: "With any wildlife people should exercise caution. I certainly wouldn't encourage people to feed them.
"Foxes are quite territorial. If you start feeding them, they don't need such a large territory and it shrinks. That means neighbours will experience more problems."
Fox populations are also self-regulatory - they will have more cubs per litter if there is enough food and space available to support them.
And they have no problem finding food. Ms Foley said: "They're scavengers which are really adept at finding food. They don't need to be fed."
Around now is mating season, when foxes are at their most vocal and visible, but Ms Foley insisted there was no need to be afraid.
She said: "We don't want people to be scared of them. They're beautiful animals and I think we're quite privileged to be able to be close to them and see them."
Can the council remove foxes? Foxes are not classified as vermin and the council has no responsibility to remove them.
Do foxes attack people? Foxes are generally scared of people but may bite if defending themselves.
Should I feed a fox? This is discouraged as it could cause problems for your neighbours and reduces the fox's territory.
Are they a health risk? They can have mange, but the risk to humans is very small. Their faeces have the same health risk as those of dogs or cats.
What about injured foxes? Call the council's Animal Welfare team on 020 8314 2098 or the RSPCA on 0300 1234 999.
For further details on deterring foxes, visit the council website.