Foxglove August 13 2008

WHILE I would like to be getting on with rabbits at the moment, what I am hearing about is foxes. My neighbour's call-ducks no longer laugh raucously at their own jokes, for a fox has taken the lot.

Another neighbour has had eight chickens killed and left, and the friend whose guinea pig pen was ripped apart found every beast decapitated and left.

A few miles away, pet rabbits have had the fronts torn out of their hutches and been killed. One of the local gamekeepers has had a very trying time with a fox getting into his pheasant pen despite the high security, and the flockmaster, who should not be troubled with foxes this time of year, has accounted for over a dozen in a few weeks.

All these animals have been coming through in broad daylight. There have been strange incidents, also in daytime, such as when one friend was out shooting and a young fox ran right up to him, and another was exercising his dogs when one ran into the middle of them.

Cats have disappeared, or else been found with their heads bitten off in typical fox manner. In the town, a man was walking his dog when a fox started to follow him; he was foolish enough to try and stroke it, and amazingly it allowed this. A dumped pet? Who knows. But surely they cannot all be?

I am having problems with a fox raiding my traps. I have seen him once, but not to speak to, and his card is marked, but he is proving a difficult fellow to catch. I dislike trapping foxes, but this is what I will have to do, for although the dogs would be far better at finding and despatching them, the law no longer allows this: foolish law.

As harvest progresses in fits and starts due to the weather, I and many others will be able to get onto more land for the purpose of reducing fox numbers, which seems to be urgently needed. Would that we could put a pack of hounds through some of this cover, which would speed things up immensely.

Still, we can legally flush to guns using two of them, and the eager terriers may still be put to work underground, chasing foxes into nets or else holding them at bay while they are dug down to.

The job is made harder but it can still and indeed must still be done. This is no compensation for those who cannot replace their poultry, or for children crying for a dead pet, but it will reduce further incidents.

I walk up the hedgeline in the rain, looking for clues, and the dogs show me what they can scent and where it goes. I would rather be concentrating on the rabbits and I would rather the foxes would as well, but they do not, and so I have another job to do.