An example of the demonisation of foxes by supporters of hunting was illustrated by P Barnes (Letters, July 16).

He accuses foxes of “killing for fun” when in fact the only animal that kills for fun is man. All natural predators indulge in the phenomenon of “surplus” killing. If their prey cannot escape, the predator’s killing instinct is repeatedly triggered. Killer whales do it with seals, seals do it with fish in fish farms, etc.

P Barnes also claims that foxes are serious predators of lambs. The Department of Environment and Rural Affairs (Defra) describes the impact of foxes on agriculture as “insignificant”. Up to 20 per cent of lambs born on hill farms die from hypothermia, malnutrition and disease compared with between one and two per cent lost to foxes. As for the allegation that urban foxes kill cats, this issue has been investigated over many years. Professor David Macdonald of Oxford University examined 1,939 fox droppings collected in Oxford City, which has a significant fox population, and cat fur was found in only 0.4 per cent of the samples. Macdonald stated, “Considering the numbers of road-killed cats available as scavenge, one might have expected them to occur more frequently in fox diet.”

Macdonald also reported that out of a sample of 2,674 families from three cities, only 0.1 per cent believed their cats had been killed by foxes. A similar survey conducted by Professor Stephen Harris of Bristol University produced an identical result. In my own experience confrontations between foxes and cats are rare and usually restricted to between February and May, when the occasional dog fox may take his parental duties too seriously and chase cats away from the den containing newborn cubs. A confrontation may also occur in competition over food put out for cats and/or foxes – one of the reasons I do not advocate the feeding of foxes. Killing foxes, whether by snaring, hunting, shooting, or trapping, is pointless, as reflected in Defra’s policy statement: “Territories made vacant by culling resident foxes are rapidly colonised by new individuals. The most effective strategies to resolve fox problems have primarily relied on non-lethal methods, focusing on preventative and deterrent strategies.”

John Bryant, Humane Urban Wildlife Deterrence Tonbridge, Kent