Outfoxing the Foxes

Sport Business News

With foxes running across the pitches of sports venues such as The Oval in London now a familiar site to spectators and viewers, Rachael Church–Sanders looks at how one service provider is tackling the problem.

According to experts, foxes prosper in urban dwellings because they are able to find plentiful food and shelter in gardens, yards and other open spaces. Their diet is varied and will include insects and grubs, slugs, worms, small rodents, and indeed anything that they can raid from rubbish. They have become so successful at adapting to city living that some estimates put the fox population in London at as many as 28 foxes per square mile. Foxes are considered by many to be a nuisance as well as a health risk and are a growing concern to sports properties in particular. One golf club in North London has hit the headlines for employing a marksman to shoot foxes that were increasingly interfering with play and digging up the Links. Killing foxes however is not the only option for a sports venue as Will Moore, a director at Foxolutions, a UK–based urban wildlife management company that specialises in humane fox prevention and whose clients include Charlton Athletic Football Club and Wasps Rugby Club explains: Foxolutions is committed to offering a range of humane solutions that are designed to alter fox behaviour without causing harm to flora, fauna or the environment. Also when one considers the high profile of major sports teams one can appreciate that their associations with companies that would do harm to foxes could be very damaging to their corporate brands. Foxes are territorial animals and as such they mark their boundaries with scent. Moore continues: We fool them in to believing that another fox is holding the territory and in order to avoid conflict they will skirt the protected areas. Some venues that have contacted us had previously employed pest control companies to reduce the numbers of foxes in an effort to combat the problem. The fact is that it is only the territorial scent marking of the resident foxes that keeps others at bay. Once this has been removed a vacuum is created which will quickly be filled. Foxes will often dig up sports pitches in search of insect larvae and worms, causing not only damage to the playing surface, but also potentially to the players as well – an expense and inconvenience that sports properties can do without. Bone meal and blood–based fertilisers are sometimes used to maintain a pitch that can also appeal to the vulpine inhabitants of cities. Fox activity can represent a major health and safety concern. For instance can you imagine spending millions of pounds on a new footballer and losing him a week later if he turns his ankle in a fox hole on the pitch? What we do at Foxolutions is to make sure that a venue is as protected as possible through the use of sprays and effective barriers. As foxes can carry a range of parasites and diseases relevant to the health of domestic pets and people, Moore believes it is essential to protect the general public against them. Toxocariasis is the most common disease which foxes are likely to transmit to people. It is caused by a parasitic roundworm in the fox, toxocara canis. Microscopic toxocara eggs are present in the faeces of infected animals. These eggs have thick, sticky shells that means that they can remain infective in the soil for two to four years after the faeces have disappeared. The sticky shell helps eggs to adhere to fingers or clothing. Humans can become infected with toxocara by accidentally swallowing the infective Toxocara eggs. The symptoms of this disease can be unpleasant and difficult to treat. They can include stomach upset and pain, headache, sore throat, wheezing and listlessness. In some cases, larvae reach the eyes where they can cause sight problems and in some cases blindness. Foxes are also susceptible to Weils disease (Leptospirosis), Hydatid disease, Sarcoptic Mange and fleas and ticks. For sports properties and members of the public concerned by coming into contact with foxes, Foxolutions offers several professional products that it uses successfully at sports venues and it also sells a consumer range of repellents and deterrents via its online store to members of the public (http://www. foxdeterrents. com/shop/). In London and the Home Counties, Foxolutions provides a repellent service to a host of clients ranging from private residences and schools to sports grounds and commercial premises. Perimeters of gardens, pitches, courts and other high risk areas are sprayed with a protective ring that provides a highly effective chemical barrier. Foxolutions also provides deterrent installation, proofing works and fouling clearance services. For further information, visit, www. foxolutions. co. uk or call Foxolutions on 0870 760 2634 during normal office hours.

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