Aside from the ever present threat of being stabbed, shot, mugged or raped on the way to Tesco, now, we the residents of Hackney, must also factor in the likelihood of being viciously attacked by a fox. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1284505/Baby-twins-Isabella-Lola-Koupparis-seriously-injured-fox-attack.html
Bizarre as this story is, and that is what it is – even so called fox experts can’t explain it – I think some restraint is needed before we call for the Master of Foxhounds to galumph and trumpet his way through the East London suburbs. After all, how many fox attacks have happened in urban areas recent times? . . . One, that’s how many. It was 2004 in Edinburgh when 88 year old Margaret O’Shaughnessy went into her garden late at night to feed her cat and was bitten on the leg by a fox . . . supposedly. I have to say I doubt the veracity of this story. First of all, why’s Margaret feeding her cat in the middle of the night? And why in the garden? That’s not normal is it? I’m not cat owner, but if I did have one I would probably allow it to eat in the house and at a respectable hour. I don’t think it was a fox that attacked her. No, I think it was probably the cat, pissed off with being treated in such a despicable manner. Anyway, the important point is, she was fine.
Of course any attack on children is atrocious and it would be churlish to make light of it, but it needs to be given some context. Compare, for instance, this glut of fox related incidences – a staggering three bites in six years – to the frequency of bites from ‘man’s best friend’, which is currently estimated at 250,000 a year and rising, and the calls for the immediate and total eradication of the urban fox population may seem a touch OTT.
Only last week I was sat in Victoria Park when a recalcitrant Welsh terrier attacked a child. It then proceeded to tear around the park, hatchels raised, as mothers gathered their children from the floor and held them aloft, while the rest of the crowd watched on in a silence only punctuated by the owner’s repetitive requests for the dog to ‘come here!’ Yet, in spite of the abundant witnesses, I saw no mention of the incident on the news the next day. Far too commonplace. My next door neighbour has a staffordshire bull terrier which I have seen attack another dog on two occasions, and two doors down from them is another ‘pit-bull type’ dog. Wander over to the estates at the end of my road and pit-bulls are the only dogs you will see. And are any of them on leads, or muzzled, as is a legal requirement stipulated by 1991 Dangerous Dogs Act? No, of course not. But forget about these massive dogs, with their gigantic heads full of teeth, predominantly owned by irresponsible idiots, it’s these scraggly little foxes we should be worrying about.
Reading and listening to the interviews conducted with neighbours in the houses surrounding the epicentre of the attack, the tone is, by and large, disbelief that Fantastic Mr Fox has turned against them. One man talks wistfully about watching foxes sleep at the bottom of his garden in broad daylight and another lady about having to throw a cushion at one when it wandered into the house. That’s a remarkably blasé way to treat a wild animal isn’t it? – “Oh no, Dave, there’s a fox in the kitchen.” “Ah, just lob a cushion at it, I’m watching CSI Miami.” Because, after all, that’s what it is, a wild animal, and if you are going to treat a wild animal as some quaint country relic decorating your garden, then is it any wonder that they will become bolder and braver, and as their population and our population grow side by side there will inevitably be a clash.
I imagine that many of the people now calling for the complete annihilation of the fox population are many of the same people who were up in arms about the cruelty of fox hunting. But now that their middle class garden accessory has turned out to be a pest, I imagine they have a very different view of things. The smart money’s on an investment in fox furs. I predict a resurgence in popularity this autumn/winter season.