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Second chance for orphaned fox cubs

Thursday 3rd September 2020 10:21

Fox cubs at Long Reach sewage works

Fox cubs at Long Reach sewage works

Volunteers at a sewage works in Dartford are lending a helping hand to orphaned fox cubs. 

Working with The Fox Project, Thames Water engineers at Long Reach sewage works have been kept busy this summer nurturing abandoned, sick and injured fox cubs, before they are ready to be released into the wild. 

The fox cubs are often found in need of help when people start spring cleaning their gardens, removing sheds and decking and discovering a den of cubs underneath. 

In most cases the adult fox will return and move the cubs, but sometimes they abandon them and that’s when The Fox Project, steps in. 

The Kent-based charity works with volunteers who have gardens or land and who are willing to take care of a group of cubs in a pen before they are introduced back into their local habitats. 

Barry Trigg, a Thames Water technician, is part of the Long Reach team responsible for maintaining waste services for 862,000 Thames Water customers. Since 2017 he has helped look after and release 15 fox cubs, giving up his own time during the working week and at the weekends to clean their pen and feed them.    

Barry Trigg said: “I really enjoy volunteering and helping to care for the cubs. It’s great to see them grow and take their first steps back into the wild, but what is important is that the project continues to receive donations and funding to ensure the hospitals stay open.”

Each August, the cubs are housed in groups of five on the waste treatment site for four weeks before the team start the “soft-release” process.   This involves letting the cubs free when they are old enough and when they would naturally leave a family group. The team then provide additional food and water as the cubs get used to their new surroundings, while moving it further away from the pen each day for a week.   

Sandra Reddy, hospital director at The Fox Project, said: “We have been working alongside the Thames Water team at Long Reach for a number of years and we are extremely grateful for the help and support provided each year when it comes to the dispersal season of The Red Fox. 

“We admit around 250 fox cubs each summer and finding suitable release sites for them is a challenging task. Thames Water’s dedicated team provide a safe natural environment for which we are truly thankful and so are Tom, Plum, Vita, Del and Rum, this years’ release group.”

Hayley Alger, performance manager at Long Reach sewage works, added: “At Thames Water we care about the environments we work in and the wildlife which visit and make our sites their home. We’re glad we can do our bit to help these foxes. Quite often the cubs come to us extremely shy and timid, however once they get used to Barry’s voice and extra food supplies, by the time they leave they have much more confidence to engage with the outside world.”  

The Fox Project operates a wildlife information bureau and a humane fox deterrence consultancy. It has incorporated a Wildlife Hospital since 1993, which admits and treats over 1000 foxes per year, including 250 cubs. 

The charity is hoping to raise funds to build its own hospital and bring its facilities under one roof. Learn more about The Fox Project.

Long Reach sewage works is also home to the Shrill carder bee, England’s rarest bumblebee and is involved in the Bumblebee Conservation Trust’s Making a Buzz for the Coast project, which aims to boost rare bee populations in Kent. 

From 2020 to 2025, Thames Water has committed to enhance biodiversity by 5% at 253 of its sites which have biodiversity interest.