A supersized fox has been caught and killed in southeast England, raising fears that the red-furred critters could be getting bigger and bolder as they gorge themselves on urban leftovers.
The colossal canine weighed in at 26.5 pounds and measured 4 feet from the end of its nose to the tip of its tail – twice the size of a normal fox. Veterinarian Keith Talbot caught the creature at his parents’ suburban house in Maidstone on Dec. 26, after they told him a fox had gobbled up their 19-year-old pet cat, Amber.
“Amber was on the front doormat when my parents went to bed and they heard some commotion,” he told Sky News. “They saw a fox going up the drive later on that night but didn’t think anything of it. Later that morning they came out and there was fur and bits of the cat everywhere.”
He set a trap at the property and on Christmas Day caught a regular 14-pound fox. The next night, he snared the bigger beast. Both animals were destroyed.
It was only when Talbot’s friend Roy Lupton – a veteran fox shooter – turned up and weighed the animal that he realized he might have caught Britain’s biggest fox. “I’m not against foxes; I think everything in nature has a place,” he said, according to The Daily Mail. “But there is a limit, and when something like that happens and they start eating cats, it probably tells you that the balance of nature has been upset by humans feeding them and that it’s time for controls to come in.”
It’s thought that the animal could have bulked up by dining on tasty scraps of food found in trashcans or left out by fox lovers.
“Foxes have a social system in which the alpha animal gets the food and the rest gets what’s left over, so if there was a very big, dominant animal, the rest would get very little,” Pat Morris, a zoologist formerly of Royal Holloway, University of London, told the London Times. “It might be that this was a particularly dominant animal which monopolized the food locally.”
Some pro-hunting groups have claimed that the number of urban foxes has soared in recent years and that a cull is desperately needed. Their campaign received a boost in June, when a fox is believed to have attacked 9-month-old twin girls in their cots in east London.
Fox experts insist that unfortunate incident was a one off, and that most of the creatures are shy scavengers. And the University of Bristol’s Mammal Group says that urban fox numbers are in fact stable at around 33,000. They note that foxes have simply become more visible and confident over the past decade, as the amount of scraps and trash left lying in the streets has increased.
If Brits want to see fewer big bad foxes strutting though their towns and cities, it seems they’ll have to start tidying up after themselves.