A cheery topic this time… cheery picture too…

Fox carcass in local woodland

An Ex-Fox

So I came across this unlucky individual on a recent walk through my local patch of woods, an area close to a sheep farm as well as several small domestic flocks of chickens.  And it looks like someone has taken it upon themselves to stop him (or her I suppose, I’m not entirely sure…) having a snack on their animals.

At first glance I was pretty sure that this was a bad thing, but it did get me thinking so I took a quick snap because I’m a morbid kind of person like that at times.  Anyway, it got me thinking about why I thought it was a bad thing, and how this argument is always going on but never getting won.  Many people will do as I did and automatically think its wrong to kill a wild animal, but just as many will think it through a bit more and think of some reasons on the grim reapers side of affiars.

Foxes kill, thats a fact, so this might have actually saved hundreds of lives- rabbits are the classic prey of a fox and do indeed get picked off in large numbers, but that’s not the end of the story.  Living as I do on a nature reserve drives this home- every year a large number of nesting birds have their chicks devoured by a hungry fox (or badger even), if they are lucky enough to escape themselves.   Most nature reserves have a policy on predator control, and I’ve had first hand experience of this with foxes, american mink, rats and others all being put under pressure to control their numbers.  This helps their prey reach higher populations so we can have more breeding birds and water voles amongst others- a highly artificial end point but one that people find desirable. 

And taking this whole argument a step further, the timing of this particular dead fox is important, imagine if it was in a couple of months time when there would probably be cubs dependent on this guys hunting for food.  Then it could have been half a dozen lives impacted upon instead of this unlucky one.  So I see this single act of death as quite an abstract event, backed up with first hand experience as well as ecological theory, and find the emotional argument a bit irrelevant. Overall I’m suprisingly ambivalent about this photo, I wouldn’t have done it myself if there wasn’t a particularly good reason for it but I don’t find myself particularly against it either, maybe I’d feel different if it was done in spring.  Do you agree? about any of this?


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  1. This will continue to be a never-ending debate. Those folk, who are at the receiving end of the damage caused by various predators, will always see things differently to the public. During my infant years as a naturalist and general birder, I remained firmly against any form of animal control and viewed this activity as barbaric. During recent years, having researched the success stories coming from these activities, I now view it as an unavoidable option. The fact is, predator control takes place across the country, albeit in a largely un-noticed manner and will continue to do so.

    The most pertinent point you brought up is the question of winners and losers, of which there will be many. From what I have read, it is simply not possible to control everything and any head keeper/estate owner doing so, would be damaging the whole ecosystem anyway. My local patch entails large areas of shooting estates alongside public and private land. It is the most productive downland that I know of. On this patch over the space of just a few years, I have counted over 12 species of raptor as well as numerous Ravens, Grey Partridge, Stone-Curlew, Willow Tits to name just a few. Alongside this, there are many rare insects and other creatures found here. Management clearly works in most cases and should be accepted as the way forward

    Finally, this represents my personal opinion and is not that of my employers or people, which I represent.

    Kind Regards

    Tony Powell

    • Hey Tony,

      It does seem to be the only way at times, I just hope people don’t think of it as the first option…

      Thanks for the in-depth response!


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