MARK PALMER: Turning a fox into a pet is the act of a reckless fool

MARK PALMER: If Kate Beckinsale saw my ransacked garden, she’d soon realise turning a fox into a pet is the act of a reckless fool

Posing ostentatiously in her mother’s London garden in a variety of alluring outfits, actress Kate Beckinsale is seen offering shredded ham to an urban fox.

In several of the video clips, posted on social media, the fox stares lovingly at Beckinsale (and who can blame him?). In others, he puts his front paw on her leg to reach up for food, while James Taylor’s You’ve Got A Friend is heard playing in the background.

Many people will dismiss these contrived scenes as unadulterated cringe — but the star, 48, is not among them.

‘It’s life-altering. Thank you so much to all my special people. And my little orphan bestie,’ she wrote of her fox friend on Instagram.

Posing ostentatiously in her mother’s London garden in a variety of alluring outfits, actress Kate Beckinsale is seen offering shredded ham to an urban fox

When challenged by a follower as to whether it’s a good idea to feed foxes and encourage them to live in urban environments, Los Angeles-based Beckinsale — whose big break came in 1993 in the film adaptation of Much Ado About Nothing, while still a student at Oxford University — is indignant: ‘Of course. I’m not a reckless irresponsible fool.’

Sorry, Kate, I beg to differ.

You’re talking nonsense — your actions are indeed those of a reckless, irresponsible fool. And if you can’t see that, I would like to invite you to spend a few minutes in my garden in South-West London, where you won’t find any shredded ham but, rather, a once-pretty space shredded to within an inch of its life by a family of eight foxes.

In several of the video clips, posted on social media, the fox stares lovingly at Beckinsale (and who can blame him?)

In others, he puts his front paw on her leg to reach up for food, while James Taylor’s You’ve Got A Friend is heard playing in the background

Her actions are indeed those of a reckless, irresponsible fool. And if you can’t see that, I would like to invite you to spend a few minutes in my garden in South-West London, where you won’t find any shredded ham but, rather, a once-pretty space shredded to within an inch of its life by a family of eight foxes

First, they destroyed our fence, breaking through from next door where they live in an unkempt, overgrown garden partially owned by the council, which couldn’t care less. Then, by jumping from the top of the trellis fence, they have smashed precious terracotta pots and a beautiful old, stone bowl which we brought back from Greece many years ago.

Almost all our plants have been demolished (although, strangely, they seem to avoid the hydrangeas) and the smell of their urine overpowers the scent of what’s left of our jasmine. They also scare away birds and terrify genuine house pets, such as dogs and cats.

When no one is around, they repose in the sunshine — a bit like Beckinsale in her videos — as if they rule the Instagram roost. Which I suppose they now do.

At night, they howl and shriek, which disturbs our sleep and can be distressing as it sounds similar to a woman screaming. This is when they are either fighting with another pack or, especially in January, attracting a mate with their far from dulcet tones.

We keep our back doors and windows shut for fear the scavengers might one day feel emboldened to enter the premises and cause carnage — even though the RSPCA and worthy wildlife organisations play down the possibility of foxes baring their teeth to humans.

At night, they howl and shriek, which disturbs our sleep and can be distressing as it sounds similar to a woman screaming 

We keep our back doors and windows shut for fear the scavengers might one day feel emboldened to enter the premises and cause carnage — even though the RSPCA and worthy wildlife organisations play down the possibility of foxes baring their teeth to humans 

‘Foxes are one of Britain’s most popular mammals . . . many people enjoy seeing foxes in their gardens,’ says the RSPCA.

Try telling that to Pauline and Nick Koupparis, whose nine-month-old twin girls were attacked by a fox in 2010 after the back door of their East London home was left ajar. Isabella and Lola were asleep in their cots at the time.

‘I went into the room and they were both crying,’ said Pauline. ‘Isabella was head down in her cot. I noticed some blood and I thought maybe she’d had a nose bleed, so I put the night light on and saw the fox at the end of Lola’s cot. Then I saw that Lola was covered in blood as well.’

The girls were rushed to hospital, with Pauline describing Isabella’s arm as looking ‘like it had been through a cheese grater’. But even before they returned home from Great Ormond Street Hospital, animal rights extremists began to sharpen their own teeth, accusing Pauline of demonising foxes.

Three years later, a four-week-old baby in Bromley had his finger torn off and suffered puncture wounds to his face after a fox broke in to the family home. Fortunately, surgeons were able to re-attach the finger in a three-hour operation.

To many of us, foxes are vermin, but the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs calls them ‘wild animals’. Which would be fine if they did indeed predominantly inhabit the wild. But, increasingly — and with the encouragement of people like Beckinsale — they have migrated to cities and become such a common sight no one now bats an eyelid.

Certainly not local authorities. My own Hammersmith and Fulham Council makes clear on its website that dealing with foxes is the landowner’s responsibility, ‘as with any pest’. Yet it also insists it is ‘illegal’ to take matters into your own hands and ‘trap foxes inside their den or put down poisoned food’.

A crime for which you could be fined as much as £20,000.

The council instead suggests residents should visit the ‘Fox Website’ for more information, which turns out to be petkeen.com, an American outfit that addresses boxer Mike Tyson’s obsession with tigers before listing those states in the U.S. where ‘cuddling up to a fox’ as a pet is legal.

Thanks for the help.

Pauline and Nick Koupparis’s nine-month-old twin girls were attacked by a fox in 2010 after the back door of their East London home was left ajar

In the first video she shared with the fox, Kate found her waiting right outside her back door 

Establishing how many urban foxes are in Britain is not easy. The Mammal Society and the Animal and Plant Health Agency suggest the fox population is about 430,000, of which, according to recent analysis by Brighton University, some 150,000 live in towns and cities.

There is not sufficient data to claim that the 2004 Hunting Act (which made it illegal to hunt foxes with dogs) has caused any significant uptick in national fox numbers or, more specifically, urban fox numbers.

Rather, it is the wily fox who has realised that surviving in urban areas is far more desirable than living in the countryside, where farmers tend to adopt a shoot-to-kill policy for marauding pests.

The star shared a few videos, the first of which shows her opening the door and finding the fox waiting for her

In our cities, the attention-seeking Beckinsales of this world are encouraging this growing menace — even defying the advice of fox-supporting organisations such as the RSPCA.

The animal charity states clearly: ‘Don’t try to make them tame, never hand-feed them or put out too much food.’

A neighbour of mine is convinced that foxes will stay well clear of human urine. I haven’t tried this tactic myself, but Trevor Williams, founder of The Fox Project, says it’s merely an old wives’ tale.

‘There are plenty of other fox deterrent options you can buy, but it’s also good to work out why a fox is in your garden in the first place,’ he says.

Clearly, the one in the garden belonging to Beckinsale’s mother knows he’s on to a good thing.

‘Have you come for your tea? Come on, let’s go,’ Kate chirps in one of her clips.

It’s all utterly nauseating. And if she were only to visit me for tea in my garden she might just come to her senses and realise that turning foxes into pets is an act of crass selfishness.

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