A night angler has been scarred for life after a startled fox locked its jaws onto the fisherman’s face while he slept.

Andrew Thomas, from Uckfield, is warning other fishing enthusiasts to make sure their food and bait is sealed so wild animals are not lured into their tents while they sleep.

The 41-year-old, who has been catching fish for more than 20 years, said: “The first I knew of it was waking up to find this fox was across my face.

“My first instinct was to grab its snout with my hands around its jaw and squeeze as hard as I could to stop the thing breathing to get it to release its jaw.

“I felt the pressure release a little bit and I prised it off. It cartwheeled out of the tent at a rate of knots.”

The fox tore an artery in Mr Thomas’ face and blood was pouring down his chin and neck.

But the unfazed angler calmly laid down, stemming the flow with a towel before packing up his kit, including washing the blood off his tent’s groundsheet, before driving himself to hospital.

He said: “My worry was the amount of blood that I was losing. If I hadn’t have stayed calm and laid down it might have been a different story.”

He was transferred from hospital in Uckfield to Haywards Heath and then to Brighton where he had internal and external stitches in his face.

But the ordeal has not put the data technician off angling He said: “I’m going fishing again in a couple of weeks – you would have to chop my legs off to stop me going fishing. It was a wild creature and I was in its domain. It came in after smelling food and I must have startled it by snoring or moving in my sleep.

“I want to warn people to take precautions, make sure any food or bait is stored away from your face at the other end of the tent.

“Make sure anything with a scent is sealed and put away.”

A Countryside Alliance spokesman said: “Foxes are opportunistic predators and in some situations it is understandable that they might see a sleeping angler as a potential food source.

“Thankfully this sort of attack is very rare.”