The Reality of Winter

I’m not going to try and soften this story up and make it pretty, it’s the flip side to life in an urban garden. It’s not pretty, it’s painful to watch and it’s not fair but it is real and I think it’s worth talking about.

Fox with Mange

Ratty visits the garden for one of the first times

I’ve been studying several foxes in the garden since New Year. There are about five local ones, most seem healthy but not all. For the last week a fox with very, very bad sarcoptic mange has been visiting.  I’m sure it’s not one of the local family group (if it had been I’m sure I would have seen it before) but has been pushed out of another territory and is looking for food.

It’s coat is in very poor condition, in places on it’s back it’s bald and it’s tail is completely bare. I’ve named it Ratty. It’s not much bigger than a domestic cat and looks very sorry for itself. Since I first spotted it I’ve been putting out some extra food in a bowl. On the first night Ratty was very wary of it. The local foxes march straight up to the bowl without a care in the world but he didn’t eat a thing, and spent the entire night circling it.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

more about “Fox with Mange : 27 January 2009 on V…“, posted with vodpod

That was Tuesday, since then he’s got much braver and last night was tucking into the food I put out. We had a problem with foxes and mange last year and I managed to get some advice from the National Fox Welfare Society. They sent me some homoeopathic treatment (for free) that I can put onto food, and suggested getting some SA37 vitamin/mineral powder from the pet shop. I used the SA37 last night, and if the fox stays around I’ll start it on the homoeopathic treatment as well. Most foxes with mange this bad don’t survive.

If a fox is healthy it’s harder for the mites (Sarcoptes Scabiei) associated with mange to take hold. So, other things you can feed are marmite sandwiches, fresh liver and ‘Stress powder’ which provides both A & D vitamins along with calcium and phosphorus (available from pet shops). A general wormer like Drontal Plus can also help.

So to finish on a happier note, here’s one of my cheeky “healthy” foxes (notice the enormous difference in size when compared to Ratty above!) who just can’t seem to leave the food bowl alone and drags it all round the garden like a naughty child!

Vodpod videos no longer available.

more about “Fox & Bowl – 28 January 2009 on Vimeo“, posted with vodpod

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21 thoughts on “The Reality of Winter

  1. Pingback: The Reality of Winter Video

  2. Hi Tony. Thanks for visiting Urban Extension. It would be great if I could bring this little fox back from the brink but mange is a serious killer and this little chap is very poorly. However I’ll have a go!

  3. Thanks Neil. Couldn’t just sit and watch it… had to do something. He’s back again this evening, so I guess he has become more of a regular visitor now. I’m just about to put some “more” food out. Jane

  4. Well done Jane for not brushing this under the carpet. Nature is not always cute and cuddly – it’s realistic. What a great thing you’re doing in looking after it 😀

  5. Hi Tricia. I think it’s important people see the harsh realities as well as the nice “fluffy” stuff. I can’t really say I’m looking after it, but I’m trying push a few vitamins/minerals into it.

  6. Hi Jane, this is sadly as you say part and parcel of wildlife in the real world, survival of the fittest. Mange is a terrible disease and seems to be more prevelent in urban areas due to un-naturally high populations per square kilometre and unhealthy animals can keep alive with human scraps, whereas in the wild they’d succumb to predators or starvation. That’s the trouble with those wildlife documentaries, it’s all rosy out there.

  7. Hi Andrew. It’s a big debate “to feed or not to feed”. I’ve just read a book called “The darkness is light enough” by Chris Ferris about badgers/foxes etc. It has affected my views on this a lot. I’d recommend the book to anyone who loves our native wildlife – but be warned she doesn’t hold back. You get death, ill treatment and persecution thrown in as well!

  8. Hi Jane,

    I liked your videos, although the one with the unhealthy fox was a little sad. We had a scrawny fox in our garden in the autumn. Whether it survived or not, I am not sure, but I have seen another one visiting our garden recently.

    Nice to see the second video though. Its really great that you supply the foxes with food- I must try it myself. It really does give them a helping hand when other food sources are short.

  9. Thanks Joe. I don’t feed them very much (not enough for them to rely on it) Although tonight my friend has donated a few bones from the butchers… so they are in for a treat!

  10. Yes indeed, well done for doing the decent thing. Every now and then I get worried about feeding wildlife, and how it can upset an ecosystem in all sorts of unexpected ways. But then I decide that we’ve messed up the ecosystem so much anyway that it probably doesn’t matter too much, so what the hell. And I’ve always got a soft spot for a waif or stray.

    Here’s hoping he makes a full recovery.

  11. Thanks Badgerman. I know how you feel. I don’t like interfering on the whole but when the animal is in my own garden I felt that I had to do something (in the same way that I would help an injured bird in my garden). It’s a difficult one… Jane

  12. Hopefully mange will become less of a problem this year with a ‘proper’ winter killing of a proportion of mange mites.
    For the last three years I’ve had sarcoptic mange in the cattle and it’s very distressing. We, vets and I, believe it’s to do with the warmer winters we’ve been having. This is also true for internal parasites; and with a higher burden of internal parasites the animal will be more susceptible to external ones – a vicious circle.

  13. Hi Paula. I’d read about the sarcoptic mange on your blog. Does this get passed to the cattle from foxes, or do they just pick up the mites themselves? Lets hope with this cold weather it does kill the mites off. Jane

  14. Hi, We’ve got a family of foxes in our neighbourhood, all of which have got mange. The cubs born last year are worst than the parents, they are bold apart from their faces. It is very distressing to see. I have a cat so don’t want to encourage them into our garden to feed, has anyone got another suggestion??

  15. Hi Laura. I’d suggest that you look at the Fox Welfare website. They have a website specifically about manage http://www.nfws.org.uk/. They are also very helpful if you get in contact with them, and have sent me manage medicine for my foxes in the past. We have cats and dogs in the road. However, mange in domestic animals is VERY EASY to treat. The fact that foxes are wild is the thing that makes it so difficult to treat. Anyway, have a look at the website, and hopefully they will be able to help you and your foxes!

  16. It’s nice to see the conservation in your neck of the woods. Here in Canada, for many the wilds are a resource for consumption or just a plain nuisance.

    • Hi Rvewong. Thanks for visiting the blog. I’ve had a look at your blog and will be back to read more. Sad that you feel Canada doesn’t appreciate it’s beautiful landscape. You obviously do – so maybe things will change in years to come.

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