The Times: Feb 11th 2013

Demand for action over growing threat as fox rips off baby’s finger Fay Schlesinger Last updated at 12:36AM, February 11 2013 Boris Johnson, the Mayor of London, is to call for urgent measures to tackle urban foxe s, including the possibility of a cull, after a baby had his finger torn off as he was dragge d from his cot. One-month-old Denny Dolan was attacked by a fox that entered the terraced house wher e he lives in Bromley, southeast London, through an open door on Wednesday afternoo n, his family said. His mother, Hayley Banks Cawley, 28, had gone upstairs when she heard a bang and ra n down to find the animal dragging her son by his hand towards the back door, Lorraine Murphy, the child’s aunt, said. Ms Banks Cawley screamed hysterically and had to kick the fox a few times before it re leased the infant, she added. His hand was “mangled” and he also had four cuts to his fa ce, one of which required stitches. Denny spent about four hours in theatre at St Thomas’ Hospital in London. It was report ed that his finger was successfully reattached. His father, Paul Dolan, posted a photograph on Facebook showing his son in hospital wi th marks on his forehead and cheek, and his left hand swathed in bandages. “My poor b oy,” Mr Dolan wrote. A hospital spokesman said that Denny had been transferred to the high dependency unit of Evelina Children’s Hospital in Central London and was recovering well. However, d octors said that there was a 30 per cent chance that Denny would not be able to use his h and fully in future, Ms Murphy said. She added: “It was so traumatic. The family are devastated. I spoke to my brother at the hospital, but he couldn’t even talk. Denny’s lovely — he was a perfect baby.” The family, who have two other children, are thought to have been rehoused by the cou ncil. Ms Murphy, who lives nearby, said that foxes are common in the neighbourhood, a nd are becoming increasingly brazen. “I keep asking the council to do something about i t,” she said. “There are about five of them in my garden. A friend had to chase one out o f her bathroom.” Mr Johnson plans to contact the leaders of all 33 boroughs in the capital, who are in cha rge of pest control, as well as the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. It is understood that the Mayor has not ruled out a cull, though sources said he recognise d that such action would be considered an expensive and blunt instrument. The killing of urban foxes would need to be in response to what he has described as a gr owing pest rather than in response to a single incident, the Mayor’s office believes. “Ov

erall, what is needed is a proper assessment of the options available,” a source said. Christabel Moseley, a vet, said something had to be done, after she had seen a rise in the number of pets mauled by foxes in recent years. Ms Moseley , who runs a veterinary su rgery in Twickenham, southwest London, said: “I have said before, do we really have to wait for more children to be injured before action is taken? Since wheelie bins came in and made it harder for urban foxes to find food, they have suffered too. They are getting desperate and starving, and they are getting bolder.” The RSPCA said that research had shown culls to be ineffective, as others simply move in to take over the cleared areas. It is also difficult and expensive to round up foxes to ki ll them. Instead, residents should keep windows and doors closed, and clear their gardens of den se vegetation where foxes can shelter, the charity said. Rather than feeding wild birds on the lawn, “fox-proof” feeders should be used as well as repellents, such as chemicals th at give off the scent of fox urine. Klare Kennett, of the RSPCA, said: “Fox attacks on youngsters are extremely rare as fo xes by nature will tend to avoid human contact.”