Coming into the third year of my project up on the hill, I realise that the problem of foxes has still not been properly addressed. I’ve shot my fair share either while lamping or happening across them during early morning patrols, but I haven’t found any reliable or systematic way of dealing with them. They pop up all over the place, and while the way that they seem to use the land isn’t very intense, it is fairly constant.
What I have found most surprising is their total intolerance of human intrusion. They are maddeningly suspicious of anything I try to do to draw them in or attract them. I made a midden with the intention of shooting foxes as they came in two years ago and no fox ever visited. Two breasted cock pheasants, a pile of rabbit guts and half a sack of woodpigeon offcuts gradually melted into the peat. In October last year, I shot a pink footed goose, breasted it and left it in a spot well known for fox activity. It’s still there. You would think that foxes from a natural area where there is no danger from humans would be naive and easy to kill, but the effect is almost totally the opposite. They are absurdly intelligent, and their ability to second guess my plans is leaving me in a state of despair.
Remarkably, my pen of partridges has been totally untouched by foxes. It would be the easiest thing in the world for a fox to get inside the flimsy wooden panels and make a beast of itself, but the partridges have now been up there for almost a month and nothing has happened to them. A single partridge which escaped through the roof net when I was changing their water returned to the pen the following morning, called back by its fellows. It was killed by a fox within forty eight hours because it was outside the pen. The fox won’t go near the pen, even though it’s full of partridges, presumably because it’s new and smells of me. Anything outside the pen is fair game – It takes a patient and calculating mind to resist the temptation of the mother lode and keep an eye out at all times for stragglers and lost souls.
I had hoped that snaring foxes would be a good way of getting in amongst them, but conventional snaring away from fencelines (as dictated by law) has provided slim pickings. There are just too many paths, runs and tracks across such a vast open area that you would need to set a thousand snares to catch a single fox. I hope that my snare midden will make a difference when it comes into action in January, but given my foxes’ uncanny ability to avoid danger, I’m expecting the worst.
Any suggestions from readers would be gratefully received –