Fox populations on the rise in Europe, hunters worried about their game
I was watching a late night show on Flemish television last night when a nature philosopher (Jan Desmet) and a hunter where asked to join the discussion table for a debate about the growing fox population in Belgium. I actually really enjoyed Jan Desmet working his way through defending the fox population against the arguments of a jealous hunter (the foxes are hunting faster and better than them, so their hunting game is threatened) and an opinionated commentator talking about killed pet chickens in bourgeois backyards.
The truth is, I was completely unaware that the fox population was growing and colonizing urban environments. And according to The fox website “foxes are widespread throughout mainland Europe and the British Isles, and in the past twenty years fox populations in Europe have been increasing in numbers.”
Jan Desmet pointed out that we should not feel threatened, but instead happy that foxes where able to adapt so well to human environment, considering what we have done to their habitat in the last centuries.
During the 1970s and 1980s the European fox population was hit by an outbreak of rabies. As a result, the fox population was given oral anti-rabies vaccination throughout most of Europe. Since 1985, and thanks to the vaccination campaign, the European fox population has been increasing nearly everywhere.
The hunter said to be campaigning for hunters to be able to kill more foxes, and for longer periods of the year. As in many European countries, hunting is strictly regulated in Belgium, allowing hunters to call themselves sustainable hunters nowadays, making sure there is not too much game shot dead so the population growth remains more or less the same for them to be able to enjoy their killer sport year after year. But to save their game, they must be allowed to kill more foxes. Otherwise, so the hunter said, the foxes will disseminate the existing wildlife population and bring the system out of balance. Is it just me, or is there something really wrong with this picture?