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Action needed to tackle spread of urban foxes

Urban foxes are now brazenly rummaging through householders bins in Dublin city.

Councillor Barry Ward said the foxes are proving to be a major problem for urban residents.

"My understanding is the fox population in Ireland has generally increased, but it is an increase primarily in urban areas," Mr Ward said.

"Several people have brought it to my attention. They are tearing apart bins, they are in gardens, they fight with domestic pets.

"So there is a problem and something needs to be done.

"There is a problem with the fox population in Dublin anyway, and certainly in the Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown area," said the Fine Gael councillor, who is raising the issue at local council meetings.

He pointed out that there is more availability of food in urban areas, and said that foxes pose a hazard.

"I know there was an example last year in England of a child being attacked by a fox." However, Mr Ward said that he believed that this was an absolutely exceptional case.

"Anybody who drives around the city in the evening will see them out and about, and they are less fearful of people than they would have been once," he said.

At the last meeting of Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council, Mr Ward sought information about what the council was going to do to combat the growing fox population.

However, the response said that the National Parks and Wildlife Service is the appropriate body to deal with all wildlife issues, including foxes, and the council has "no responsibility" in this matter.

The Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, under whose remit the National Parks and Wildlife Service comes, told the Herald that the service has "no responsibility" in managing fox numbers.

The fox is one of the most common and widely distributed mammals in Ireland. It has adapted to both rural and urban habitats. It is not a protected species and may be trapped or killed using humane and approved methods, the department spokesman said.

"However, control of foxes in urban areas is not effective as new animals will quickly occupy any vacant territories," he said.