Do foxes predate hedgehogs? YES!
15th June 2018 at 4:18 pm #9967
I have regular visitors to my garden – both hedgehogs and foxes. I foster hedgehogs for the local hedgehog centre, and last year I released six females into our area, as there was a healthy population here. Last summer I rescued two from the garden who had broken back legs – both due to fox bites (you could smell the fox on them). Foxes tend to grab their back legs as they try to escape. They were the lucky ones who I saw on camera and waited up for. I see at least one fox visit every night on the camera, and I have seen it ignore the hedgehogs, but to say that there should be so many breeding females around, I have seen very few youngsters, and in fact I only ever seem to see males on the camera. Recently, two of those have had broken back legs too. I had my suspicions, then two nights ago I saw the regular fox pounce on a hedgehog right in front of the camera where it had been leaving my feeding station. The fox just picked it up in its mouth and carried it out of shot of the camera. I heard a couple of muffled cries – but wasn’t to know if it was the hedgehog or the fox being spiked. Ten minutes later the camera picked up a hedgehog happily feeding, so I hoped it was the same one that had escaped. However, this morning there was fox poo on the lawn which had what looked suspiciously like hedgehog quills in it, and I rather fear the fox has acquired a taste for hedgehog and is gradually picking off the population. I have another three (fat) over-wintered hogs in an outside enclosure (all fenced and netted thankfully) awaiting release, but I daren’t let them go round here any more if they are just going to become fox food. I also wonder if by feeding and encouraging hogs to come to my garden (and those of like-minded neighbours), I have inadvertently led to their demise, as the fox is both attracted to the garden by the smell of cat food (even though it can’t reach it – it still picks up the odd dropped morsel) and it also now knows that there are likely to be hedgehogs around too – and some quite plump ones at that. Should I stop feeding altogether? I do still have hedgehogs visiting, but definitely not as many as there once were. The rescue centre has had a LOT of hogs in this year with broken back legs and some with horrific injuries from foxes. So in answer to the question I often see on these forums, ‘Do foxes predate hedeghogs?”, the answer, unfortunately, is yes, they do.15th June 2018 at 8:23 pm #9969
So sorry to hear about your fox problem. I have been saying for ages, you cannot trust a fox with hedgehogs and find it very worrying when hearing about foxes and hedgehogs being fed side by side. I have heard before about certain foxes who become expert at killing hedgehogs. One fox I heard about just kept very still until the hog unrolled and then pounced and killed it. Having said that, I had a hog who was attacked by a dog and there was a very foxy smell in the air. I smelt it before I saw the dog and was expecting a fox. I mentioned this to the Wildlife Hospital and they said hogs do sometimes give off a smell when attacked.
Sadly, it may be more likely for foxes to kill former rescue hogs or hogs which have been handled. In his ‘Hedgehogs’ book Pat Morris says ‘The risk might have been increased because our animals were accustomed to being caught and handled. They might have become insufficiently wary of ‘attack’ and several barely bothered to roll up when they were caught for weighing each night. This would be dangerously casual behaviour when accosted by a badger.’ This is an extreme example as these hogs were involved in a study, so had arguably being handled even more than the average over-wintered hoglet, but nevertheless over-wintered hogs may be less likely to roll up. Also the predators mentioned were badgers but if the hog doesn’t roll up the same would apply to foxes. It is another reason why I feel it is not a good idea to encourage wild hedgehogs to become too habituated to humans – who are predators as well – by regularly catching them to remove ticks, mark them, etc.
I don’t think you should blame yourself, though. You have been doing your best to help the hedgehogs and rescue hogs and it is very unfortunate that this fox or foxes who have developed a taste for hedgehogs has chosen your area.
There is an argument that if you feed the fox as well it may be less likely to kill hedgehogs, but I’m not sure that sort of logic always works with wild animals. I can see it is a bit of a dilemma for you. I am assuming there is no way of making it difficult for a fox to get into your garden and anyway the hog would need to leave it at some point. It seems to me that whilst that fox or foxes are around the hogs will always be at risk and it may be that any cubs pick up the habit from their parents. But if you stop feeding when the hogs (especially the previously rescued ones) have come to rely on it, they will find things more difficult. Maybe you could find someone else near enough and far enough away that could feed them for a while until the fox stops visiting? It’s a very difficult decision, but one you really need to make yourself after weighing up all the pros and cons.
If you were going to continue feeding, the only things I can really suggest is to have as many entrances/exits to your garden as possible, so that the fox doesn’t know which one the hog is going to use, and maybe spread feeding areas around as widely as possible, for the same reason. It may not stop the fox, but may make it more difficult for it?
I wouldn’t want to be in your position. Good luck.16th June 2018 at 12:42 pm #9974
It really is a dilemma. Foxes cover a huge area and they jump fences so easily, there is no keeping them out. This fox does the rounds of the area every night and probably covers numerous gardens. I have wondered about feeding it, so that it’s not as hungry, but then that just makes for a very healthy fox that is likely to have a healthy litter of cubs that it will also bring to be fed! If I feed it, it will definitely come every night; but if I don’t it’s likely to sniff around anyway. Last summer there were four foxes – two parents and two cubs. At least now there only seems to be one on its own… for now. It also comes back to the garden three or four times in one evening. The garden has lots of entry and exit points for hedgehogs, so it doesn’t know their route, but it probably knows they’ll visit one of the feeding stations. On the camera when it pounced, it appeared from nowhere – it hadn’t triggered the motion-sensitive camera beforehand, so I can only presume it was waiting in the bushes.
It is true that over-wintered hogs can become less frightened of predators. I handle my foster hogs as little as possible for that reason. The females I released may have come to a sticky end sooner for that reason, but the one the fox caught the other day was a male, and therefore a wild one. The three hogs I have in the outside enclosure (two inherited from another carer) I dare not release, because they have become too used to humans. One was rescued as a baby so has never lived in the wild, and one has had problem after problem so has become used to being treated and handled, and the third is completely bonkers, and when I first put them outside he came right out in daylight, came up to me and pulled at my trousers like a little dog! I have hilarious video footage of it, if only I could post it, but that is obviously far from normal behaviour! They seem perfectly happy with each other and their space (unlike some of the wilder previous occupants who tried to dig out and escape the whole time). If it weren’t for the fox, I’d risk them having a taste of freedom, but not now.
I guess I’ll have to leave it to nature and survival of the fittest and hope that enough hogs evade the fox to keep the population going.16th June 2018 at 1:37 pm #9975
The way I see it, about releasing over-wintered hoglets back into the wild, is that, even if some of them may be at slightly more risk, if they hadn’t been taken in in the first place even fewer of them would have survived. But it is almost inevitable that they will become a bit less wary of humans even if not handled much – there would still be humans around. I still think it is worth doing it, even if it must be heartbreaking when something like this happens.
If you want to keep on feeding the hogs, maybe just make things as difficult for the fox as possible. Maybe putting barriers in various places that would deter the fox but the hogs could get through or under. The trouble is, foxes are so clever. Every time I think of an idea, I think, no, the fox would find a way round that or just wait on the other side. I can just imagine your garden turning into a series of wide hog height ‘walkways’ all over the place! The fox may able to squeeze underneath, but wouldn’t be able to pounce and would be at a disadvantage! Only problem is, you wouldn’t be able to go there either! Ok, maybe a bit ott but you could have removable ‘walkways’ with hog height pegs in the ground and you could have unscrewable tops which you could lift off in the daytime if you wanted. Better stop before I get any more crazy ideas!
Love the sound of the hog who thinks he’s a dog. I know a sheep a bit like that! Like many animals, they are much more intelligent than many of we humans give them credit for.
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