The folks at New Scientist report that "there are five times more urban foxes in England than we thought." At the same time, it appears there has been a tremendous decline in rural fox following the ban on hunting with dogs.
The number of red foxes in urban areas of England appears to have soared almost fivefold.
The rise from an estimated 33,000 in the 1990s to 150,000 today seems to have happened largely because foxes have appeared in new areas, or multiplied in low-density towns, particularly in the north of the country. In southern cities, numbers seem to be static.
Meanwhile, paradoxically, overall sightings in England have plummeted by 43 per cent over the past 20 years.
Red foxes (Vulpes vulpes) are flourishing in urban areas across the globe. They were first reported in towns in southern England in the 1930s.
... Top of the list is Bournemouth, at 23 foxes per km2. London registered 18 per km2. In Brighton, the population is 16 per km2.
Further north, Newcastle is now home to about 10 foxes per km2.
“The densities in the north have actually increased. The densities in the south have not,” Scott told the meeting. “It doesn’t look like London is overrun by foxes.”
Extrapolating from these figures, the team estimates that there are nearly 150,000 urban foxes in England – about one for every 300 urban residents.
... The urban trend contrasts with the British Trust for Ornithology's overall fox figures for England, both urban and rural, which show a 43 per cent decline between 1995 and 2015, including a sharp drop since 2010.
“I’d say that the most likely causes were declines in prey or increases in shooting pressure,” says Stephens.
Rabbit numbers have fallen over this period, possibly because of disease, and changing farming practices are also likely to have reduced potential prey in rural areas. "Earthworms make up a large proportion of the fox’s diet, especially for their young, in many areas and are known to be strongly adversely affected by pesticides,” says Stephens.
There is also anecdotal evidence that “since the hunting with dogs ban came into force, gamekeepers have felt a particular obligation to hammer foxes as hard as they can”, he says.