Urban foxes are one of the most abundant mammalian British wildlife species and a favourite to spot in gardens and public spaces around our homes. Feeding wildlife is common in the UK, with many households filling bird feeders or support feeding hedgehogs going into hibernation in the winter months. But should we be feeding carnivores?
Table of contents
But should we feed foxes?
Whether or not we should feed foxes is a controversial subject. Foxes are territorial, resilient animals who thrive in a wide variety of environments. They are scavenging carnivores and highly adaptable. Also, they are resourceful, and able to find food sources readily within their territories. They are relatively un-selective with their diet, and as a result can find food in most environments. They do not require external sources of food in order to thrive, in fact external food sources can be of detriment to them.
Why can feeding foxes be a detriment to them?
Eating food provided by humans requires no skill or effort and is an easy way to a tasty meal. While this can be appealing, the net result of this over a period of time is that foxes become reliant on this food source and stop scavenging and sourcing their own natural food sources as they normally would.
As they stop doing this, they stop roaming as much as well, which means their territory reduces. As a result the availability of food to them also reduces. So when the human source of food is not available for any reason, for example people go on holiday or are away from their houses for any reason and don’t provide the food as they normally would, foxes have a much reduced ability to source food and can end up struggling to find food. Added to this even if a fox was fed daily, this reliance on an external source of food takes away from their natural behaviour to source food and is harmful to the behavioural and social interactions of the animal.
Are there any benefits to feeding foxes?
For the fox, the main benefit is an additional source of food. As discussed above they don’t need this, so this is essentially just extras. But having a randomly occurring non-predictable tasty treat, can be good enrichment for them and a positive experience.
For people, the main attraction to feeding foxes is encouraging them into their garden so they can see them. It is nice to have wildlife regularly visiting our gardens, however this is of no overall benefit to the fox.
In conclusion, feeding foxes is controversial, mainly because of the possible health, social and behavioural issues that can be caused by overfeeding. Regular feeding of foxes should not take place for this reason. Occasionally offering appropriate feedstuff at non-regular random intervals can be good enrichment for foxes and have the dual benefit of increasing wildlife presence in the garden too.
It is important to remember that feeding foxes in this way should only be done by providing appropriate foodstuff in a clean bowl that is put out and removed and cleaned the following day. Hand feeding is never appropriate as it can cause the animal to become tame and increase the risk of human conflict. It is also a health and zoonotic disease risk.
- Foxes do not require support feeding in order to thrive
- Regular feeding of foxes is detrimental to their health and wellbeing
- Feeding foxes occasionally, in a random infrequent manner is acceptable and should not cause harm
- Any food is offered should be nutritionally balanced and appropriate to avoid any health issues
- Hand feeding is never appropriate and food should only be offered in clean bowls with any uneaten food removed promptly