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from The, Australia

    Foxes bare their teeth in Bourke Street

By LARISSA DUBECKI Thursday 14 June 2001

Lured by plentiful scrap food in Melbourne's rubbish bins and back yards, there are more foxes in Melbourne than many rural areas.

Conservative estimates put the figure at 12 foxes per square kilometre in the Melbourne metropolitan area, which is higher than the average for rural areas, says scientist Penny Fisher from the Victorian Animal Research Institute.

"They live in creek beds, parks; they're in large numbers at the Docklands where they live in deserted warehouses and shipping containers," she says.

They have been sighted in the early hours in Bourke Street and, last month, one was sucked into the engine of a departing Boeing 737 at Melbourne Airport.

Mark Fenby, a fox catcher with Outfoxed pest control, is amused by the naivety of city dwellers when it comes to foxes. Foxes have "always lived in the city", he says. "People think they don't live here and then they call me to get one out of their back yard. I wouldn't be in business if they didn't live in the city."

He reckons there are tens of thousands living in Melbourne and he's caught about 100 in the past month. He catches them in a broad band of suburbs including Prahran and Eltham. He also catches a lot in Camberwell.

The night-hunting fox likes to eat native wildlife, says Linton Staples, managing director of Animal Control Technologies. "They'll eat anything. Any species of ground-nesting animal is at risk."

Foxes prey on a range of small creatures weighing up to 10 kilograms, which includes possums and ducks, but they do not seem to bother cats.

They tend to live unnoticed until they nest beneath a house or in its roof, where their rustlings are often mistaken for possum noises.


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She was not bitten by the squirrel, she stressed, and did not have to worry about rabies. However, she said she was concerned that there are people who treat wild animals as pets, as this young squirrel evidently had been. "People should not try to befriend wild animals," she added.

By coincidence, a spokesperson at Madonald College's wildlife hotline, Mary-Anne Hudson, had seen the squirrel at Le Nichoir. It had obviously been hand-fed, she said. Although she found it "sweet and friendly", it was also very persistent, she agreed. "Once you feed them they became habituated. "It's not a good idea. We get lots of calls from people with good intentions, kidnapping babies and trying to raise them by themselves. It is difficult as you really can't replace the mother."

Le Nichoir founder Lynn Miller, who ended up having to deal with the squirrel, said its behaviour was improving and it should be able to be released back into the wild. She was not happy, however, that the squirrel had been dumped on the doorstep of her centre. "We were put in a very difficult situation," she added. In the final analysis, the experts agree. Whether it is baby squirrels or baby birds, the best mother is the real mother.

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