Fox attacks are once again in the headlines, but are foxes really a threat to humans? What are Britain's top animal Killers? And how can we protect ourselves from harm? Wildwood Trust's top animal experts can reveal all.

Wildwood Trust's Chief Executive, Peter Smith, was appalled by the sensationalist headlines in the weekend press of foxes attacking humans, which only serve to needlessly scare the public. Peter noticed that there were no good statistics on animal attacks in the UK and so has for the first time compiled a list of Britain's top 5 animal killers.
 
Wildwood Trust's Chief Executive Peter Smith said:
"Sensationalist stories of wild animal attacks have flooded the weekend press but what is the likelihood of actually being attacked by an animal? Wildwood Trust is dedicated to restoring wild animals to the UK so we are very interested in the risks that our charitable efforts could cause. I have made a study of such risks and can reveal, for the first time, Britain's deadliest animals."
"The reasons behind people's morbid fascination with wild animal attacks go right back to our caveman roots and is a hangover from when we had to run away from sabre toothed tigers or rampaging woolly mammoths. This fear has driven man to eradicate all the wild animals in the UK that we perceive to be dangerous. It is of great sadness to me that people cannot instead learn to live with wildlife."
 
"There has been a series of very dubious 'fox attack' stories in the British media in recent years which play upon our primal fears. Many wildlife experts I talk with suspect that supporters of fox hunting are encouraging these stories in an attempt to demonise foxes and so support a return of fox hunting. The same newspapers that carry these dubious stories also seem to support fox hunting."
 
According to the National Office of Statistics around 25 people each year are killed directly by animals, more are killed by road accidents relating to animals and yet more are die from infection and diseases associated with animals. Of the 25 directly related animal deaths in the UK, our top 5 killers are:
 
1.            Horses: about 10 a year
2.            Cows:  about 5 a year
3.            Domestic dogs: about 4 per year
4.            Bees & Wasps: about 3 per year
5.            Deer –attacks about 1 per year
 
The list shows  that while animals are directly responsible for a truly tiny amount of deaths each year, domestic animals are the most likely culprits as they are regularly in contact with people.  Our most prolific 'wild' killers are creatures such as bees or from road accidents with deer.
Globally, snakes are by far the biggest direct killer of humans at about 70,000 a year, while malaria transferred to people by mosquitoes kills about 1 million people per year.
There are many hidden killers such as the dust mites that cause asthma or diseases we catch from farm animals and pets. These hidden killers are responsible for thousands of deaths each year. 
We have forgotten one animal killer and that is other humans, as we easily forget that humans are animals too. 
 
At Wildwood our animal experts manage a wide range of potentially dangerous former native species and have avoided serious accidents through understanding them. Wildwood's boss Peter Smith gives his top 5 tips on avoiding animal attacks:
 
1.            Know your animal. Some animals like wolves are not that dangerous and you get to know their mood, other animals such as bison are very dangerous and it is impossible to tell their mood. In the countryside you need to watch out for dangerous animal situations such as a cow or wild boar with young to protect.
2.            Physical situation. Confined spaces are dangerous, avoid meeting cows or horses in confined spaces as injuries come from crushing or kicks.
3.            Dog walkers beware.  Big problems can occur when owners try to intervene between their dog and animals like cows, horses or wild boar. Do not get between your dog and an angry animal.
4.            Protect children.  Do not let your children interact with animals unsupervised, whether it's your neighbour's dog or leaving your baby unsupervised in a public place with wild animals around.
5.            Do not antagonise an animal – Try not to approach horses, cows or other large wild animals by trying to feed them, do not throw things or shout at them and never try to catch one.
 
 
Fox Facts
Red Fox – Vulpes vulpes
  • Despite speculation in the press, foxes are not getting bigger.  The only scientific evidence tells us that foxes are not growing larger and urban foxes are probably smaller than their country relatives living on farms.
  • While some foxes have attacked children this is incredibly rare and not life threatening. There also seems to be a tendency to attribute attacks on children to foxes when they are more probably from domestic dogs.
  • Red Foxes are the most widely distributed members of the dog family in the world, having overtaken wolves for the top spot.
  • They are good climbers and may sometimes spend the day asleep in the low branches of trees.
  • They have only one predator in the UK apart from humans; the golden eagle.
  • They are terrific at jumping and have been known to leap 4.5 metres or 15 feet!
  • Red foxes are easily recognised by their reddish-orange fur and bushy tail or brush. They are highly adaptable animals and can be found in a wide variety of habitats, from salt marshes to mountain tops. In modern Britain, they have also adapted very well to urban environments.
  • Red foxes live from two to six years. Urban foxes tend not to live as long as rural ones, not due to any significant difference in health but due to the greater number of cars in their environment.
  • Wildwood's foxes are from the Fox Project, which helps to rehabilitate injured or orphan foxes back to the wild.