Foxes and foxhunting on farms in Wiltshire: A case study
Baker SE., Macdonald DW.
A questionnaire survey of 220 farmers, and interviews with 13 Masters of packs of foxhounds, in the county of Wiltshire, UK, were undertaken to answer questions on whether farmers perceived the red fox, Vulpes vulpes, to be a pest, and on pest control methods. Farmers' opinions regarding the need for fox control were often contradictory and not directly governed by their own interests. Although two-thirds did not consider the fox to be a personal pest, most believed that foxes should be controlled everywhere, because they were too numerous. Far fewer believed foxes responsible for actually taking domestic livestock. Where farmers' opinions of the fox were influenced by personal stock loss, their main concern was chickens, which were generally kept on a non-commercial scale. The evidence is that, over the whole county, hunting with hounds makes an insignificant contribution (5%) to total mortality (through 'control efforts'), most being shot. A greater density of foxes was reported shot when there was a perceived pest problem, where lamb or gamebird losses were reported, or when a farmer farmed stock. Where the farmer considered shooting to be effective or humane, a greater density of foxes was also shot. The Hunt was less responsive to these situations, paying fewer visits to farms where the fox was considered a pest, or where the farmer welcomed the Hunt, hunting being more likely to occur on farms reporting fewer foxes, less livestock farming and fewer fox pest problems. It is likely that these farms presented fewer incompatibilities with, or physical access problems for, the Hunt. Most farmers, even on farms where foxes were considered a pest, tolerated, rather than encouraged, hunting on their land. Evidence from hunting farmers suggests that hunting is considered primarily as recreation, and secondarily as a method of controlling foxes. (C) 2000 Elsevier Science Ltd. All rights reserved.