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Urban fox costs Bishop’s Stortford primary school £2k

By Herts & Essex Observer  |  Posted: March 07, 2013

Urban fox

Comments (19)

WILDLIFE presenter Chris Packham has said a Bishop’s Stortford primary school’s decision to spend almost £2,000 to get rid of an urban fox is a missed opportunity to learn about nature.

The animal, which is said to often be seen perching on a plastic bench in the playground at Richard Whittington Primary, has become so bold that it is no longer scared off when pupils come pouring out of their classrooms.

One parent said: “He sits there and when the kids come out he just looks at them. He had built a nest under the temporary classroom but that’s been fenced off now.

“Lots of people love him and think it’s educational but you’ve got to err on the side of the caution. Having known about it for a while, it would only take one kid being bitten and the school would be in all sorts of trouble. They have to do something about it because they can’t take that risk.”

However, the Springwatch presenter told the BBC said: “This is a unique opportunity for young people to engage with wildlife first hand.

“They could easily be managed by the teachers and told not to approach the animal and simply to enjoy it. To think they are to be taken out of the school, at any expense whatsoever, is frankly disgusting.”

In February, a four-week-old baby underwent emergency surgery after his finger was bitten off by an urban fox which had climbed into his cot while he slept. The newborn also needed stitches and treatment for facial and head injuries where the animal had struck him against a door frame at his home in Bromley.

The attack promoted London Mayor Boris Johnson to hold urgent talks with council leaders to discuss the danger posed by urban foxes and the possibility of a cull.

Mr Packham, however, said the school’s action showed people were “susceptible to the most ludicrous scaremongering that our society can muster on behalf of an animal”.

“We know that every year there are 6,000 cases of dog bites treated in hospitals at the cost of £3m to the NHS and on average one adult and one child dies in dog attacks each year in the UK,” he said. “I am absolutely certain that if it were a dog then this action would not be happening.”

A statement released yesterday (Wednesday, March 6) by Richard Whittington’s chairman of governors said: “The grounds of the school are being visited by a fox. Urban foxes are scavengers and opportunists and pose a minimal threat. However, as the safety of the pupils is our primary concern we are erring on the side of caution and dealing with the situation as a safety and hygiene issue.

“We have liaised with and taken advice from local authorities, including environmental health and the RSPCA. Following this, control measures have been put in place by a specialist contractor.

“At present, the fox is still visiting the site and we are taking further advice from relevant professional bodies.”

In a letter to parents, Richard Whittington head teacher Chris Jones added: “The school has liaised with both East Herts District Council and Uttlesford District Council to find out how we can deter these unwelcome visits. We have been advised that it wouuld be illegal to catch urban foxes and then release them into the countryside. Foxes cannot be poisoned. Both councils recommended we use the services of a contractor who specialises in dealing with urban foxes.

“The contractor has spent a considerable amount of time on the school premises undertaking a full survey, addressing key areas of concern and undertaking remedial work. Despite some considerable cost to the school (£1,870), the fox is still evident in the school grounds.

“I have arranged for the school to contact the contractor in order to seek further advice. We will continue working with the recommended specialists to try and prevent the fox coming into the school within the legal constraints imposed.”

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  • Herts & Essex Observer  |  March 08 2013, 9:37PM

    No doubt these folk would relish a return to fox hunting etc....I teach my children to respect nature. Pity others didn't do the same for some of you....

  • Herts & Essex Observer  |  March 08 2013, 5:07PM

    You're gun cabinet knowledge is impeccable :O)

  • Herts & Essex Observer  |  March 08 2013, 9:15AM

    Thanks David. I'll tape your message onto my 5mm thick steel x2 5 lever mortice locked bolted to the wall and floor gun cabinets to remind me I don't know what I'm talking about.

  • Herts & Essex Observer  |  March 07 2013, 9:21PM

    Stortfordian People's Front - I don't particularly care whether the fox is a danger or not and I don't really care how they deal with it. My point is they have wasted £2000 on what was probably a man putting chicken wire on some holes. They could rent an alpaca for less than that and it would probably do a more thorough job.

  • Herts & Essex Observer  |  March 07 2013, 4:48PM

    Loads a monie - How is a crossbow less practical than a .265 (whatever that is??). I assume you mean a .22 rimfire with a silencer. Crossbows are silent! They may not be legal to hunt with in the UK (Shotguns are y the way, even in urban areas although it might not be that sensible) but they would by far be more practical, and safe! Perhaps do some research on guns before correcting others ;)

  • Herts & Essex Observer  |  March 07 2013, 3:24PM

    Tom, be practical, you cannot use a crossbow or shotgun in an urban area to kill a mammal. Think of the safety aspects - and this is a school site. However, if you said you wanted to use a .265 with silencer then that would make sense. Either way it wouldn't cost £2000. More like £100 and a bottle of Scotch for a fully insured vermin controller/operative. Where do they find these people who run schools today and what is the name of their senior buyer in procurement?

  • Herts & Essex Observer  |  March 07 2013, 3:20PM

    Tom - We'll try to enlighten you as you are clearly in need of being enlightened. Why is there even a need to 'deal' with the fox? The school itself has stated that the fox poses minimal threat, so why is your massive overreaction justified? Foxes are becoming ever more tame and adept at living in urban areas because of humans inability to keep their own environment tidy and free from HUMAN waste and litter. They are simply being drawn here because of this lack of pride we take in the places we live in. The fox has no less a right to be there than we do, and i'd maintain that if my child attended the school.

  • paul.middleton  |  March 07 2013, 12:14PM

    Absolute ridiculous amount of money for nothing more than a "survey". Parents were not consulted about the expenditure and no report has been published for us to look at. Fox attacks are incredibly rare and the one alluded to in your article has not been proven. Domestic cats and dogs are far more likely to be the actual culprits.

  • Herts & Essex Observer  |  March 07 2013, 12:08PM

    What's Uttlesford DC go to do with Richard Whittington, or have I moved overnight?

  • Herts & Essex Observer  |  March 07 2013, 11:29AM

    Oh dear, now the BBC has run the story and has solicited comment from "celebrity" presenter Chris Packham who knows nothing about the area. BBC also showing their ignorance by asking Uttlesford DC if the school contacted them. I repeat there is a whole tribe of foxes within two hundred yards of the school and they are literally a mangey bunch.