Mooney Goes Wild, Sunday January 14th 2018

The Blue Tit

Parus caeruleus 
Meantán Gorm  

The Blue tits are back! Watch the adult feed five young nestlings in the nest box in Derek Mooney's back garden. (Tuesday 14.05.19) The interior of nest box is designed to look like a thatched cottage and the Tit family love it.

For more information about Blue tits - Click Here

The Fox

This recording of the fox was made at Derek's home on Tuesday 14.05.19. The fox is regular visitor to Derek's back garden and likes nothing better than lie out on the granite paving and soak up the sun. 

The Red Fox

Vulpes vulpes  

Madra Rua 

Urban Foxes - Are they Common?
Urban foxes are very common in Dublin. They are found throughout the city and suburbs. Foxes can be seen at night roaming Grafton St. and O'Connell St., with dens near Dáil Eireann. In the suburbs foxes do best in estates with large gardens. 

Areas like Sandymount have very high densities of foxes but they are also found in industrial estates and in some council housing areas. These days Dublin probably has a similar density of urban foxes to English cities like Bristol or London. 

I Thought I Saw a Puddy-Fox!
If you thought you saw a fox in your garden, then chances are you were right! In areas of Dublin where foxes are common most houses will be visited by a fox at some stage of the night. If they don't visit your back garden then they'll almost certainly trout through the front garden on their nightly explorations. If you see a fox in the garden… don't panic. Foxes are pretty harmless and they will run away if approached. However, as with all wild animals, never try to corner a fox as it may bite in panic. Often people are upset by the boldness of urban foxes. Some will not run away even when shouted at from a window, others can be seen strolling down public roads in broad daylight! This is because urban foxes have become habituated to the noise and smells of the city, if you approach them, however, they will run away. 

Should I Feed 'My' Foxes and With What?
The answer to this depends on your motives. If you think the fox looks skinny and needs fattening, don't bother. Foxes are slinky little animals by nature and they are more than able to feed themselves, especially in a food-rich environment like Dublin. If, however, you want to attract foxes so you can watch them, then by all means do. BUT always place the food in a spot you can see from your window, that is well away from the house. Feeding foxes near the house is asking for trouble. 

Foxes are inquisitive animals and an open door or window will be explored, it's not unheard of for foxes to take up residence inside houses or to become trapped in a basement or even an attic! Also never feed foxes by hand, someone will end up getting bitten and the foxes will pay the price. 

You can feed foxes any type of food. They will eat meat, vegetables, fruit etc., scraps will do just fine. Don't over-feed them, remember a lot of your neighbours are probably doing the same thing. 

I Have a Den in My Garden
A lot of urban fox dens are located in disused gardens or overgrown shrubberies. Foxes mate in January/February. At this time of year you may hear the vixen screaming in the night. Often these calls can be quite like a child and it's not unknown for the Gardai to be called out to investigate such screams! 

In March/April the vixen gives birth to, typically, four or five cubs in the den. The cubs are born blind and have a chocolate coloured coat, at this stage they look very un-foxlike. Around June they emerge from the den looking like mini-foxes, with a coat like the parents. During the summer they will spend a lot of time above ground, lying up in bushes and long grass. 

The cubs are playful and inquisitive, so expect flowerbeds to suffer a bit and toys, balls, shoes etc. to get chewed upon. From late September on the cubs begin to disperse to find their own territories and your garden will become peaceful once more. 

How Do I Get Rid of Them?
Some people love them and others (especially keen gardeners) just hate them. Foxes may do damage to lawns and flowerbeds as they root around for grubs and insects. Try to remember that the foxes are getting rid of pests such as beetles, slugs and grubs as well as rats and mice. Try to be patient. 

If you absolutely can't stand them then ask for professional advice rather than trying to solve the problem yourself. Never-ever try to poison your foxes with rat poison. This results in terrible suffering to the fox and you may find yourself on the wrong side of the law if found out. 

Killing foxes will not solve the problem and you risk a terrible fallout with neighbours who may be feeding them. For every fox you kill, there are ten more in the neighbourhood waiting to move in, so you'll only get a few weeks relief at most. This is why councils in England gave up fox control, it cost a fortune to kill the foxes and it made little or no impact on the population. 

One solution often offered by some welfare groups is to re-locate the foxes to the countryside. This may sound like a good idea, but it is cruel to the fox. A relocated fox will find itself in an alien environment, without a territory and will probably die as a result of the relocation. 

Urban foxes (and, incidentally, urban hedgehogs) belong in the City. If you wish to get foxes out of your garden then it's best done using repellents. For more information: The Urban Fox Project Tel: 087 2977931. 

Remember that even if you succeed in getting the foxes to move den, you will always have foxes passing through your garden. It is virtually impossible (bar electric fencing or a big fat Rottweiler) to keep foxes out of an entire garden. Noise and smell repellents will only work for a short time before the fox becomes used to it. You may be able to protect a small area of garden using smelly repellents, but even this may not work for long. 

A fox ate my cat/gerbil/rabbit/hamster etc...
Often I get reports of foxes killing cats. Most are found to be untrue on further investigation. Foxes may indeed kill kittens or very old or ill cats (it's worth mentioning here that cats may kill fox cubs too). However, in the vast majority of cat-fox interactions the cat wins. 

I've seen cats frightening foxes away from their meals through hissing and the odd well-placed scratch. Foxes may be found to be in possession of cat remains but these are most probably the scavenged remains of cats killed on the roads. 

Foxes will kill rabbits, rodents and birds. I have heard of pet owners complaining of losing gerbil after gerbil to the local fox. If you know the fox is in the area then more fool you for re-stocking its dinner plate! The only safe way to keep small pets outside, where you have foxes passing through, is to build a fox proof run. 

Ideally you should build a run that totally surrounds the hutch/living quarters and the feeding/exercise area. The run should be built from heavy chainlink fence or weldmesh (with chicken wire on the inside to keep the pets in). Chicken-wire alone will not keep a fox out. You should bury the chainlink to a depth of 12inches and roof the enclosure with the same chinking fencing. Otherwise keep the pets indoors. 

Do Foxes Carry Disease?
The simple answer is yes, but probably nothing worse than an average dog or cat. The main exception to this is mange. Urban foxes suffer greatly from mange and it spreads quickly from fox to fox. Fox-mange can infect dogs but not cats. In very exceptional cases it may infect humans, but in all my years working with mangy foxes, I've never caught it. 

Infected dogs can be successfully treated with injections and a medicated soap. Dublin vets are seeing an increased number of cases of dogs infected by fox-mange. Treating the foxes themselves is harder but it can be done successfully. A sympathetic vet is needed and the process involved baiting sausages or chicken with Ivomec and feeding this to the infected foxes. The success rate is quite high but it requires time and patience to ensure the medicine only gets to the infected foxes. 

Do Other Irish Cities Have Urban Foxes?
Yes, foxes have been reported from Belfast Cork and Shannon.

A Fox Bred With My Dog.
No chance mate! Foxes and dogs have different numbers of chromosomes and are incompatible for breeding. 

I found a fox cub... What Do I Do?
Unless it is in immanent danger (e.g. on the road) then leave it be, the mother will be near by waiting for you to go. If it is in danger then move it to a safe place near by and leave it, the mother will find it when she returns. If you find a cub and are sure it has been orphaned (e.g. if you find the dead vixen close by or the den is in the garden and you haven't seen the vixen for a long time) then call the Urban Fox Project or the DSPCA

Never be tempted to raise a fox yourself, they are a lot of work and the smell will decimate your circle of friends to just those with chronic nose blockages or who work in a piggery! 

Second Chance Sundays

Over the coming weeks, we'll be giving you another chance to hear some of our Mooney Goes Wild programmes uncovered from the radio archive here in RTÉ. Please tune into RTÉ Radio 1 on Sunday nights at 6pm. Click the links below for more information. 

24th March 2019, (6pm), The Dance of the Cuckoos - Mooney Goes Wild Special 

31st March 2019, (6pm), The Blue Whale - Mooney Goes Wild Special

07th April 2019, (6pm), Feathers - Mooney Goes Wild Special

14th April 2019, (6pm), Bergen Whale - Mooney Goes Wild Special

21st April 2019, (6pm), Sparrows  - Mooney Goes Wild Special 

28th April 2019, (6pm), Wildlife Film Makers - Mooney Goes Wild Special 

05th May 2019, (6pm), The Common Swift - Mooney Goes Wild Special 

E-mail: mooney@rte.ie        Facebook: facebook.com/rtenature          Twitter: @NatureRTE

On Mooney Goes Wild tonight: Special - The Bergen Whale

Viewed from space, the Earth looks like a blue marble.  Its oceans are, far and away, its defining visual characteristic.  They are home to the largest animals that have ever lived: whales.  Some whale species favour surface waters, while other dive to extraordinary depths.  The deepest diver of all is Cuvier’s Beaked Whale, a species which dives so deeply, in fact, that it is rarely ever seen by humans, except when the occasional individual beaches itself or a corpse is washed ashore.

Left: Image Credit: NASA's Earth Observatory; right: Image Credit: University Museum of Bergen

One of the most recent live strandings of this near-mythical creature occurred in January 2017 on the island of Sotra, close to the city of Bergen, on the southwestern coast of Norway.  The whale was still clinging to life when discovered, but it was in very poor health and suffering greatly.  After several unsuccessful attempts to coax it back out to sea failed, the difficult decision was made to put the poor creature out of its misery.

The whale’s sad death gave scientists and marine researchers an unprecedented opportunity to try to work out what exactly had happened to this Cuvier's Beaked Whale.  A post-mortem was carried out, and the reason for the whale’s distress soon became horrifyingly apparent.  In its stomach were found at least 30 plastic bags.  With so much undigestible plastic clogging its digestive tract, the whale had little room left for food.  It was slowly, painfully starving to death when it ran aground.  It could not have survived.

Image Credit: University Museum of Bergen

To find out more about the story of this whale, and the enormous problems that plastic pollution cause for marine life around the world, presenter Derek Mooney and zoologist Dr. Richard Collins travelled to Bergen, in Norway.  There, they spoke with Helge Søfteland, a producer with NRK, the Norwegian national broadcaster.  He told them about how the story generated a huge media interest around the world in plastic pollution in our seas...

Left: Helge Søfteland; Right: Image Credit: University Museum of Bergen

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Terje Lislevand is Associate Professor in the Department of Natural History, at the University Museum of Bergen.  He shows Derek and Richard the various plastic bags that were found inside the stomach of the whale, which are now housed inside the Museum...

Images from the University Museum of Bergen; bottom right: Dr. Richard Collins (l) with Prof. Terje Lislevand (r)

Images from the University Museum of Bergen; display of the plastics bags found in the stomach of the Bergen Whale; Prof. Terje Lislevand; 15 tonnes of plastics end up in the ocean every minute; Richard Collins & Helge Søfteland outside the University Museum of Bergen

To learn more about the Bergen Whale, visit www.uib.no/en/universitymuseum or click below to watch the video (in Norwegian with English subtitles)...

To watch the Sky News documentary A Plastic Whale, click here.

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So how can we protect our seas and oceans?  Can we, individually, have any impact?  One man who has dedicated his life to removing plastic from our oceans is Kenneth Bruvik.  He has been on a mission to clean the Norwegian coast, as he explained to Derek and Richard...

Top left: Richard Collins, Kenneth Bruvik & Helge Søfteland; top right & bottom left: some of the litter found during the clean-up; bottom right: Richard Collins & Kenneth Bruvik

From left: Kenneth Bruvik on the boat; Richard Collins & Kenneth Bruvik; Kenneth with Helge; Richard & Kenneth examine some of the plastic little they have found

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Plastic is seen as utterly disposable - and yet it simply doesn’t go away: a single plastic bottle will remain intact for over 100 years without decomposing.  Other plastics will persist for more than a millennium, buried in landfill sites, clogging our rivers or polluting our beaches.  We are producing more and more of it: around 350 million tonnes per year, and rising.  By 2050, the weight of the plastic in our oceans will exceed the weight of the fish.

Dr. Lisa Emelia Svensson; Photo by IISD/ENB | Francis Dejon

Dr. Lisa Emelia Svensson is the Director for Ocean, at the UN Environment, heading up the marine and coastal ecosystem work program.  She talks to Derek about what is being done by international governments to combat marine pollution...

For further information about the work of the UN Environment regarding our oceans, visit www.unenvironment.org/explore-topics/oceans-seas.

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Rowan Byrne

Rowan Byrne is Principal Marine Environmental Scientist for the global engineering consultants Mott McDonald, and is shocked and horrified by the sheer scale of the problem.  He tells Derek about a conference he in organised in June 2017, in the English university town of Cambridge, which aimed to bring together interested parties to discuss solutions to the problem of marine litter and pollution.  He also discusses fatbergs, and the problems that flushing wet wipes down the toilet can cause...  For more advice on what not to flush, visit http://thinkbeforeyouflush.org/

For further information about Rowan, click here.

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Niall Hatch

Whales are far from the only creatures that are being severely harmed by the huge quantities of plastic that have entered our marine ecosystem.  A vast range of molluscs, crustaceans, fish, turtles and birds are also suffering due to our folly, greed and neglect.  Niall Hatch, who is Development Officer with BirdWatch Ireland, is extremely concerned about the effects of plastics on marine life and has been seeing the problem growing.  He tells Derek about the impact of plastic on Ireland's seabirds...

For more information on BirdWatch Ireland, visit www.birdwatchireland.ie.

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Heidi Acampora

Dr. Heidi Acampora, a Postdoctoral researcher in the Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology's Marine and Freshwater Research Centre, has been examining the infiltration of marine food chains by plastic litter, as well as the dire consequences for the marine animals that are unfortunate enough to consume it.  She tells Derek and Richard Collins more about her research, and about why one bird species, the Fulmar, appears to have been hit especially hard by the abundance of plastic around the Irish coast.

To read more about the work Heidi has been doing, visit https://mfrcgmit.wordpress.com/people/heidi-acampora/.

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Dr. Simon Berrow with the skull of a Cuvier's Beaked Whale

According to a recent study, marine debris has been found in 8.5% of whales and dolphins in Ireland.  In one of the largest studies of this kind undertaken, it was discovered that amongst 528 creatures autopsied, a massive 93% contained plastics.  Dr. Simon Berrow is a Lecturer at GMIT, an Executive Officer of the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group (www.iwdg.ie) and Project Manager at the Shannon Dolphin and Wildlife Foundation (www.shannondolphins.ie).  He was also a co-author on this study; he told Derek that while larger marine debris is widespread, the smaller fractions, known as microplastics, were found in all compartments of the digestive tracts of all those individuals examined for them.  Another finding was that plastic bags were the most frequently recorded item found in deep diving whales...

For more information on this study, which was carried out by GMIT, UCC & IWDG, visit www.iwdg.ie.

***To view more photos from the making of this special edition of Mooney Goes Wild, please visit our Flickr page!***

First Broadcast 14th of January 2018

Repeated RTÉ Radio 1, 14th of April 2019

Mooney Goes Wild presented by Derek Mooney airs Monday nights 10PM RTÉ Radio 1. Please visit our programme archive at the top right of this webpage for previous programmes, documentaries and podcasts. You can contact us at Mooney@rte.ie

Hedgerows

Statement from BirdWatch Ireland, Thurs Feb 28th 2019:

BirdWatch Ireland wishes to remind the public, local authorities and contractors that hedge-cutting is NOT permitted between 1st March and 31st August inclusive, except in the case of any of the derogations permitted under the Wildlife Act 1976, as amended. The Heritage Act 2018 gives the Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht the power to make certain changes to these dates, but it is important to note that, as yet, the Minister has not done so. As a result, the usual dates when hedge-cutting is prohibited currently remain unchanged.

It is an offence to 'cut, grub, burn or otherwise destroy hedgerows on uncultivated land during the nesting season from 1 March to 31 August, subject to certain exceptions'. For more information, click here.  To read the Heritage Bill 2016, as passed by Dáil Éireann on July 5th 2018, click here.  To read the Heritage Act 2018, click here.

To contact your local wildlife ranger, click here for contact details. To read the Wildlife (Amendment) Act 2000, click here.

Caring For Wild Animals

Please note that many species of mammals, birds, invertebrates etc... are protected under law and that, even with the best of intentions, only someone holding a relevant licence from the National Parks & Wildlife Service should attempt the care of these animals.  For full details, please click here to read the NPWS Checklist of protected & rare species in Ireland.  If you are concerned about a wild animal, please contact your local wildlife ranger - click here for details.

IMPORTANT NOTICE

Please DO NOT send any live, dead or skeletal remains of any creature whatsoever to Mooney Goes Wild.  If you find an injured animal or bird, please contact the National Parks & Wildlife Service on 1890 20 20 21, or BirdWatch Ireland, on 01 281-9878, or visit www.irishwildlifematters.ie

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Presenter: Derek Mooney

Series Producer: Ana Leddy

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