Saturday 1 December 2007

Killer foxes or big cats ?

Camden New Journal - by SIMON WROE
Published: 1 November 2007

Has urban fox turned cat killer? Rogue predator blamed for series of attacks in street which has lost10 pets in two years. Cats of Hampstead beware – there is something lurking in the shadows and it is not after your Whiskas. A series of attacks on cats in a Gospel Oak street has raised fears that a killer fox is on the loose. Cat lovers in Savernake Road believe the rogue fox stalking their gardens may have a taste for feline flesh.Brenda Morlet is “100 per cent sure” that her cat, called Tony Har­rison, lost her back leg in a fox attack in September. She said: “I never thought a fox would do it, but six vets looked at the cat and told me the same thing – they thought it was the work of a fox. “The fox chomps down very quickly. It shredded all the skin. His leg was crushed bone and sinew with a bit of foot hanging off it. His claws were broken.”Mrs Morlet believes the culprit was a large, “predatory” fox, which was seen just two feet from her back door on the morning of the attack. “This one didn’t have the same look as the ­other foxes I’ve seen,” she said. “It was very big and it looked evil... predatory. This fox is going to give other foxes a bad name.” She said that 10 cats have gone missing from the street in the past two years – at one point they were disappearing at a rate of one a month.Neighbour Jan Stevens believes her 10-year-old tortoiseshell cat Albie was killed by a fox a year ago.His half-eaten remains were found in a next-door neighbour’s garden the day after the cat went missing. She said: “People tell you foxes don’t attack but occasionally there is a fox that does. There are no dogs in the houses on either side of us so what else could it have been?”Wildlife consultant John Bryant said fox attacks could not be ruled out. “Nobody loves foxes more than I do, but it does happen,” he said. “It’s no good denying it, but it is rare. You can never say never with wild animals. They’ve all got different personalities, like people. In any species you’re going to get a rogue.”It is believed the fox may come from a den of up to 30 at Hampstead Heath allotments. There are an estimated 10,000 foxes in London. Each will cover up to 160 gardens in a night looking for food.Elise Robertson, at Zasman Vets in South End Green, Hampstead, treated Mrs Morlet’s cat without charge. He said: “As the years go on, we’re seeing more atypical wounds that are being caused by dogs and foxes. The puncture wounds are completely different – they shred tissue. There are more and more foxes in the area, and they’re hungry.”Dr Robertson, whose cat was attacked by what she thinks was a fox, added that “faced with a mouldy curry from a dumpster or a nice fresh cat” the scavengers might think twice.Mr Bryant suggests imposing a cat curfew to prevent further attacks. “Killing the fox is not the answer,” he said. “They’ll be replaced within a few days by other foxes.”But Mrs Morlet believes the killer fox should be shot and the council should foot the bill. She said: “I can’t let my cats out because they’re in his food path. Animals adapt according to their environment. Maybe we’re seeing the start of the real urban fox.”
Other theories point the finger at roaming 'big cats' as several domestic cats over the years throughout the capital, particularly in the semi-rural areas, where pet cats have been found half-eaten in a very clean fashion, flesh stripped and peeled back, all the characteristics of a 'big cat' kill. Also, what mystery predator is behind the half-eaten remains of foxes ?

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