Foxes are a nuisance to many property owners. Digging up the lawn, feasting on growing fruit, leaving droppings, driving other animals away – there aren’t a lot of benefits that foxes bring to a garden. That being said, they are only wild animals following their instincts. And that means finding safe, humane ways to drive them away. To keep your garden healthy without harming any beneficial animals, here is how to deter foxes humanely.
How To Know If You Have A Fox Problem
It’s best to confirm that the issues you are facing in your garden are due to foxes before you take the necessary precautions to get rid of them. There are several stand out factors that point to a fox issue, including:
- A pungent smell
- Trampled plants
- Dug-up flower beds
- Holes in the lawn
- Chewed up shoes, toys or furniture that may be left out
- Half-eaten fruit growing on fruit trees
- Damaged fences
- Sudden lack of other animals
- Fox droppings, which are usually about two to three inches long with pointed ends
Foxes are nocturnal, meaning they are most active from dusk to dawn. They spend the day resting, making them harder to find during this time. Although foxes may affect your garden all year round, they are more active during certain periods. These are their breeding season, which is December to February and when the cubs leave the nest, which should be throughout autumn. These are the best times to spot if you have foxes in your garden.
The Laws On Deterring Foxes
Once you’ve determined that your garden is suffering from them, it’s important that you know the laws on how to deter foxes. Foxes are classified as wild animals, not pests. This means that you or the Council has no legal rights to eradicate them from private property and that you must follow the correct laws. These are:
- The Wild Mammals (Protection) Act 1996 – Confirms that if any harm caused to a wild animal with malicious intent by a person is punishable.
- The Wildlife & Countryside Act of 1981 – Prohibits the use of snares that cause unnecessary harm to wild animals.
- Pesticides Act 1998 – Constrains the use of poisons and pesticides against wild animals
- The Animal Welfare Act 2006 – States that any wild animal in the custody of a person must not be submitted to any unnecessary suffering. This means that they must be properly protected and cared for during their time under that person’s guardianship.
- Hunting Act 2004 – Bans people from intentionally setting dogs on wildlife.
Failure to comply with these laws may result in a fine, prosecution or even a jail sentence.[i]
How To Deter Foxes
Contrary to popular belief, foxes are naturally nervous animals. They are only looking for a safe place to stay, and are not as violent as you may have been led to believe. Because of this, they are surprisingly easy to deter from your garden, and here are some ways you can do so in a completely humane way.
Make Your Garden Less Appealing To Them
Foxes are usually attracted to a garden that offers them safety, food, water, pets and things left out overnight. They prefer quiet spaces that provide darkness and security, meaning that gardens with a lot of shady spots are also desirable to foxes. On the other hand, they hate surprises, lights, vibrations and areas that feel unsafe. In order to make your garden less appealing to foxes, ensure that you lean and trim it regularly to reduce safe places to hide. Tend to any overgrowing grasses, remove any pet food and lock up small animals that may be left outside.
Wipe Away Their Scent
Foxes are extremely territorial, so will leave their mark to deter predators and other foxes. It also helps them find their way back, which makes it an important thing to get rid of if you want to deter foxes. Foxes have scent glands around their body, and they have been known to mark around 70 times an hour[ii], so wiping away their scent is vital. You can do this by using fox repellent sprays all around your garden. Fox droppings are another way of leaving their scent, so pick these up as soon as you see them and hose down the area. An extreme way that has helped people fend off foxes is by pouring human urine, preferably male, across the garden. Although it may sound horrible, foxes are incredibly scared of humans and that strong smell of them is enough to drive them away.
What Smells Deter Foxes?
Foxes have an incredibly strong sense of smell, which is perfect if you’re trying to deter them. There are several pungent smells that you can add subtly to your garden and drive foxes away. You can try:
- Cayenne pepper
- White vinegar
Don’t Leave Out Food
If you feed pets outside or leave food out for other animals, there’s a likely chance that foxes have been snacking on it too. Leaving food out regularly, whether it’s meant for foxes or not, may attract these unwanted guests. A steady food supply is encouragement enough for a fox to settle. Although you may want to help wildlife, doing so while a fox is living in your garden will be nearly impossible, so refrain from leaving any food out until your fox issue is dealt with. If food is high off the ground, like bird food in feeders for example, it is likely to still attract foxes, so it’s best to put this away too until you’re certain that the foxes have all gone.
Store Away Bins
Foxes are scavengers, and there’s no better target for them than unprotected bins. If foxes can get their claws into leftover food scraps, it saves them wasting energy on travelling far for a hunt and will keep them coming back. So, you’ll want to restrict their access to your dustbins. The best way of doing this is by putting your bins away into a garden storage facility. You could also try weighing down the lids or hiding the smells, but foxes are clever animals and may still find their way back.
Secure Hutches or Cages
Pets, such as rabbits or guinea pigs, that have been left outside are a prime target for foxes. Regular hutches and cages are sturdy, but foxes are strong and persistent, and will likely break through. Not only can this be devastating for your family, it’s also possible that this could bring foxes back, so securing lived-in hutches and cages is vital. You should add a wire fence around the perimeter of your hutch or cage to stop foxes getting close enough to cause any damage, and put your animal’s home on top of paving slabs.If your fox problem is severe, you may want to consider putting your animal cages in a shed.
Light Up Your Garden
Since foxes prefer moving at night, they strongly dislike light as it leaves them open and vulnerable. Finding ways to keep your garden alight through the night should help deter them because it removes their cover of darkness and they will go on search for somewhere that makes them feel safer. To do this, you can add solar powered or motion sensor lights. Solar powered lights will stay on all night long, but motion sensor bulbs will turn on as soon as they detect movement. This sudden light on them will likely do more to scare foxes.
Block Entries and Exits
If foxes have easy access to your garden, they’re guaranteed to come back, whether it’s for food, shelter, or safety. They may enter through bushes, open gates and under or over fences, and finding all their potential entry and exit points and blocking them off is a sure fire way to stop them from continuing to come in. Installing a motion sensor fox repellent at definite entryways will keep them away, but you could also try concrete beneath fences, spikes on the tops, or anti fox strips. None of these things will harm the foxes, but they will cause enough discomfort to deter them.
Install Fox Repellent
If natural remedies haven’t worked thus far, a more professional approach may be necessary. Fox repellents are available in different forms, so if one doesn’t work, it may be worth trying another until you find something that will affect the visitors you’re getting. The most popular machine deterrent you can get is ultrasonic. This gives out a high pitched sound that only animals can hear and will repel them, similar to a dog whistle. An ultrasonic device needs to be repositioned every few days for it to have the right effect. Alternatively, you could try a water repellent. Foxes hate water, and these devices have a motion sensor that will trigger a burst of water towards the passing target.
Tried and Tested Fox Deterrents
Though it’s true that foxes are a nuisance to you and your garden, it’s essential that they are dealt with considerately and legally. All of these methods are tried and tested with successful results, and the sooner you take the precautions, the better your result will be. So, give some of these tricks a try, and let us know how you get on!
Ryan Jenkins is a professional gardener and has been working in the gardening industry for over 25 years. This has allowed Ryan to accumulate a vast wealth of gardening knowledge which he shares on the Sefton Meadows blog.