This section is from the book "The Balance Of Nature And Modern Conditions Of Cultivation", by George Abbey. Also available from Amazon: The Balance Of Nature And Modern Conditions Of Cultivation.
Fox (Canis vulpes or Vulftes vulgaris) Fig. 8. This (only wild representative of the Canidae left in the British Islands) is unquestionably an unmitigated pest and nuisance in the mountain districts of northern Britain where no fox-hunting is practicable; hence only the forester and gardener has use for the animal in such locations, the hares, rabbits, rats, mice, and moles destroyed being considerable. In wild districts weakly sheep, lambs, ptarmigan, grouse, wild fowl generally, and even young roe, as well as those just named, fall a prey to the fox. In hunting localities foxes feed largely on leverets and rabbits (unearthing young in the " nest "), on brooding pheasants and partridges, even their eggs, and among young coop-reared pheasants makes fearful havoc. In the poultry yard the fox is pre-eminently the worst enemy, and, though nocturnal in habits, will carry off the unwary duck or hen in broad daylight during the season his family are dependent on him, often clearing a whole parish of out-sitting ducks and hens.
Fig. 8. - The Fox.
But the fox feeds upon rats, mice (common, long-tailed and short-tailed), and worms, snails, frogs and beetles, so that the work is not altogether against the farmer, who often has himself to blame for the inroads into the hen-roost by not taking the precaution to exclude the marauder. Similar remarks apply to pheasant and poultry-rearing grounds, where the fox's incursions may be much checked, or altogether prevented, by care and precaution. Thus the fox may be left to gratify its "sweet tooth" by feeding on the honey of wild bees and to give hounds a merry cry, with a healthy and life-giving exercise to the followers. In districts where there is no fox-hunting, and even where there is, when foxes are allowed to multiply unduly, it is right and proper to keep the fox in check; but it is well to remember that decrease of the animal means an increase of the hare and rabbit, game-preserving uncombined with fox-hunting being a greater evil than a judicious preservation of foxes.
Regarding the damage done by fox-hunters in galloping across newly sown wheatfields and other crops, including the breaking of fences, we can only say that no fox-hunter worth the name gallops across nursery grounds, land under spade husbandry, such as allotments and market gardens, over lawns and other well-kept parts of the demesne, or does wanton damage in fields and woodlands, for the simple reason that he, as a landlord, or farmer, or both, "does as he would be done by," making no gaps where none, or only dead fences, exist. Indeed most gaps are made by blackberry gatherers, nutters, and other town nondescripts, who, as pleasure seekers, cannot keep from cultivated land and cull things they would consider as stolen if practised in their own gardens.
In sandy soils foxes excavate considerable burrows or "earths," and in these, or rocky places, the young are almost always brought forth, although a vixen has been known to select a hollow tree, or a straw stack, and being near a farmstead the excursions to the poultry yard may be disastrous, when timely notice to the huntsman is sure to bring prompt relief by removal, if possible, of the litter, with recompense for damage in due course.