HOMEOWNERS are being urged to stop feeding urban foxes to control their growth in Worcestershire.

Scientists say the population of foxes living in built-up areas of the UK is now more widespread than ever before. The scavenging animals are thought to have become less fearful of humans in the search for food and shelter and some people even going out of their way to feed them, but pest experts say they carry parasites such as fleas and ticks and their droppings often contain roundworm, which can cause toxocariasis in children.

They’re warning against leaving food out for foxes and say both household and commercial bins should be left cleaned and secure.

Dee Ward-Thompson, technical manager of the British Pest Control Association said: “Urban foxes can cause serious health and safety issues because they’re a reservoir for parasites. They’ll foul and urinate in areas that can lead to contamination and will leave distinctive odours that can linger for months. They’ll also chew almost anything, including electrical wires, and that can cause serious damage.

“They can create big problems and people who feed them or leave bins overflowing with rubbish are simply encouraging them to come back for more.”

The number of adult urban foxes in the UK was thought to be around 33,000 in the mid-90s, but is now believed to be more.

A study by scientists at the University of Brighton confirmed the animals are now more widespread in the UK than previously recorded.

Ecology expert Dr Dawn Scott, of the Pharmacy and Biomolecular Sciences department, said: “Foxes are vectors for some diseases that can be transmitted from animals to people, so any increase in their population could have consequences. Urban foxes can have a positive impact on the environment because they help to control pests such as rats and many people enjoy seeing them. But those who feed them might not be helping the foxes themselves. Human food is obviously not part of their natural diet, but they’ll take it over natural food and that can affect their health. I’d always encourage people to enjoy the wildlife in their garden, but it’s important to understand that foxes are wild animals and regularly feeding them left overs can cause problems in the long term.”