Fury after Sussex County Cricket Club ‘hired marksman to shoot dead nuisance fox’

Sussex County Cricket hired a marksman to shoot a fox in the middle of the night in a desperate attempt to prevent damage to the pitch caused by the nuisance animal.

Dave Brooks, the club’s chief executive, defended the decision, saying the fox was making a nuisance of itself.

Police were called to Britain’s oldest first club cricket club, in Hove, East Sussex, at the weekend after worried neighbours reported hearing gun shots.

To the fury of local residents, it later emerged that club officials had hired a marksmen to gun down the resident fox in the middle of the night amid fears it would dig holes in their ground.

Police decided not to prosecute because the club had legally hired a pest control company to “shoot vermin”.

But the decision has outraged animal lovers who protested at the slaying outside the ground on Tuesday.

The protesters are due to go back to the ground, home to the oldest first class county club in Britain, for Sussex’s home match against Surrey on Thursday.

“People were coming up to us all day and saying how much they love the foxes. Many of them even feed them so they were distraught,” said Valerie Paynter, the 63 year-old leader of the Save Hove conservation campaign.

“The regulars at the pub always watch out for them and saw three cubs last year, so if there is a vixen underground with her cubs right now, she may have been depending on that old fox to feed them all.

“We are so close to the South Downs here that urban foxes are common. They have as much right to be here as us.”

Sue Baumgardt, an animal rights campaigner, added: “To have people going in with rifles is appalling.

“At this time of year vixens are nursing cubs underground.”

Nigel Furness, 60, who lives near the ground, said he heard three loud bangs coming from the club, which is also home to the Sussex Sharks, winners of last year’s Twenty20 and NatWest Pro40 cups.

“I thought, ‘there’s something wrong here, what on earth is going on’,” he said.

“Then about five minutes later a police car came up. I asked the officers what was going on and they said there was nothing to worry about, the cricket club was shooting foxes and it was all legitimate.”

“Foxes are harmless and destroy a great many pests such as slugs and snails. It is also alarming we were never told what was going on.”

Dave Brooks, the club’s chief executive, defended the decision, saying the fox was making a nuisance of itself.

“We have had foxes on the ground for many years but this particular one had started to cause problems by scratching around on covers and acting oddly. It was probably not particularly healthy,” he said.

“We went through all the processes such as rehousing but were told we were not allowed.

“The only alternative was to have the fox killed by a licensed company. We really didn’t want to have to shoot this fox, but there was absolutely nothing else we could do.”

He added: “We spoke to pest control people and the council, and they told us we weren’t allowed to rehouse it.

“And given the size of the cricket ground, there is no way we can seal it off completely. With the season about to start, the last thing we needed was to cancel play because a fox had dug holes in the pitch. That wouldn’t exactly make the England and Wales Cricket Board very happy.”

He said the fox was shot at during the night because the animal was nocturnal and “because we didn’t want to alarm any small children”.

“Obviously we don’t want to upset residents, but we did tell the police in advance, and it was perfectly legal,” he said.

“Anyway, if we had warned people we were about to shoot a fox, we would have had twenty of them down here trying to save it.”

A spokesman for the RSPCA said that killing wild pests should always be a last resort.

“It is never good to shoot a fox. It is much better to deter these animals by putting up fences and taking away food sources that might attract them,” he said.

“Although many people think foxes are a pest, they should still be dealt with humanely.”

A spokeswoman for Sussex Police said: “Police were called to Hove Cricket Ground at … midnight on Sunday 11 April, following reports of gun shots being heard.

“Having investigated the incident, it was established a licenced pest control company was working at the time.

“It is not in violation of a firearms licence to shoot vermin at night on private property, therefore no further action is being taken.”

The number of foxes being drawn to urban living is thought to have increased significantly in the last two decades but no study has been undertaken to assess the population since 1995.



One Reply to “Fury after Sussex County Cricket Club ‘hired marksman to shoot dead nuisance fox’”

  1. The law in this Country re the wild life is just ridiculous this fox had every right to be where it was and as you said possibily feeding a Mother fox, but do these cretins think of that OH NO all they care about is the flaming grass these people make me sick and I shall be sending very strong emails to all concerned. If I lived near this cricket ground I would get some people together and go and dig the whole place up that would show these murderers what we think of them.

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