Mooney Goes Wild Monday 11 February 2019

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 

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Mooney Goes Wild

Mooney Goes Wild

Derek Mooney and guests explore the natural world in all its forms.

Mooney Goes Wild - The Wexford Blue Whale

This is the story of Hope also known as the Wexford Blue Whale which became stranded on Swanton Sandbank at the mouth of Wexford Harbour in 1891. Measuring in at over 25.2 metres in length this stunning Blue Whale was caught by a low tide on a sandbar one March morning. It is thought that Hope was migrating up the west coast of Ireland. Tonight we discuss her story with key experts and descendants of those who found her in 1891.

The Blue Whale is a carnivore whose average life span in the wild is about 80 or 90 years. It can weigh up to two hundred thousand kilos and grow to a size of around 32 metres. A blue whale's tongue alone can weigh as much as an elephant, its heart as much as a car. Blue whales live in all the world's oceans occasionally swimming in small groups but usually alone or in pairs. They often spend summers feeding in polar waters and undertake lengthy migrations towards the Equator as winter arrives.

We begin our story in Ireland, in Dublin’s Natural History Museum known colloquially as the "Dead Zoo". Among the two million specimens across the disciplines of zoology, biology and geology housed in the museum is a picture that was taken in Wexford back in 1891. Nigel Monaghan, keeper of Ireland's Natural History Museum educates us on this incredible story of Hope, Ireland's best known Blue Whale.

The picture of Hope displayed in Dublin's Natural History Museum

Nigel Monaghan, with the photograph of Hope the Blue Whale (housed at the Natural History Museum in Dublin)

A model of a Blue whale's heart, often described as the size of a car pictured above

Derek Mooney travelled to South Kensington in London to meet Richard Sabin, the Curator of Mammals at the British Natural History Museum to learn more about Hope, the Wexford WhaleIn the 1800s there were an estimated 250,000 blue whales across the world's oceans. Decades of commercial hunting drove the species to the brink of extinction, with only around 400 thought to be left in 1966.

Cromwell Road, the home of the Natural History Museum in London

Richard Sabin, pictured above is Curator of Mammals at the British Natural History Museum 

First displayed in the Mammal Hall in London in 1934, Hope was suspended above a life-size model of a blue whale although it was not in full view. The picture below presents the life sized whale being hoisted up by men on scaffolding at each point of her Skelton. The carcass of the whale was bought by the Natural History Museum for £250. In 2017, HRH The Duchess of Cambridge Kate Middleton and Sir David Attenborough unveiled Hope in her new home in the Hintze Hall at the Natural History Museum  in London where she hangs to date.

Hoisting Hope in the Mammal Hall in London in 1934

'Hope' the Wexford Whale, pictured above in the Hintze Hall in the Natural History Museum, London

At the centre of this story is an Irishman called Ned Wickham, a lifeboat pilot in Wexford. He led a team of men who rowed out to meet Hope, the Blue Whale who floundered in Irish waters in 1891. It was Ned who eventually put the Blue Whale out of her misery.

Ned Wickham, lifeboat pilot in Wexford in 1891

Reports suggest that a group of well-meaning men beat the whale with metal bars in a crude attempt to slay her, but it was Ned Wickham who eventually killed the animal when he plunged an improvised harpoon under one of the flippers, directly into the heart. Once she was dead, tourists gathered to view the body of this monster from the deep. Newspapers reported of the whale's arrival as a 'strange visitant from strange seas'.

A newspaper cutting from the Liverpool Mercury on 30 March 1891

Mooney Goes Wild reporter Terry Flanagan travelled to Athlone to meet Ned Wickham's granddaughters, Liz Sheils and Mary Costello, to find out more about this local hero.

Liz Sheil & Mary Costello, the granddaughters of Ned Wickham

Latest research:

Although Blue Whales are a rare sighting in Irish waters, they are not that uncommon.  Research from the largest offshore whale and dolphin survey ever conducted in Ireland and probably the largest ever in Europe were published late last year. The ObSERVE programme aimed to provide robust data with which to inform conservation management by assessing the importance of shelf edge habitats off western Ireland for whales and dolphins.  

Blue Whale; photo by Tharaka Basnayaka/NurPhoto via Getty Images

This study has provided real insights into the relative abundance of fin, blue whale, sperm, long-finned pilot whales and Sowerby’s and Cuvier’s beaked whales as well as dolphins.  Humpback, Northern bottlenose, minke and sei whales were only occasionally detected. Seasonal and daily patterns were explored enabling a better understanding of the use of western Ireland by these species. Dr. Simon Berrow, Chief Science Officer and Acting CEO of the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group, spoke to Dr. Richard Collins about the research. For further information on this, visit

Dr. Simon Berrow, Chief Science Officer of the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group

The blue whale was driven to the brink of extinction by commercial whaling in the 1800s and early 1900s.  It is one of the rarest whale species and it's estimated that there are only between 10,000 and 25,000 whales left on the planet.  

Richard Sears has been one of the most important Blue Whale researchers in the world for more than forty years. In 1979 he founded the Mingan Island Cetacean Studies in Quebec, where he also started the world’s first long-term observation of blue whales.

An advert encouraging commuters on the London Underground to say hellooo to Hope, the Wexford blue whale.

First Broadcast 11th of February 2019

Repeated RTÉ Radio 1, 31st of March 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

Upcoming Events

Come learn from landscapes in the Burren this March

The 8th year of the Burrenbeo Trust Learning Landscape Symposium which will be held in and around Kinvara, Co. Galway from the 8th-10th March is shaping up to be the best year yet. With workshops, speakers and fieldtrips covering a broad range of backgrounds and interests, the event is sure to have something for anyone interested in place, education, conservation and community.

The Symposium is focused on place-based learning which is learning in, about and for place and is a key component of the work of event coordinators Burrenbeo Trust. Burrenbeo Trust work to connect everyone to their places and their role in caring for them. Over the weekend, more than 100 delegates and facilitators will gather to develop and share knowledge in this field of learning and growth. The diverse programme encompasses themes such as storytelling, team building, play, deep ecology, climate change and communities. Confirmed speakers so far include place academic Mary Corcoran, journalist Paddy Woodworth and Tomás Ó Ruairc of the Teaching Council and Neil Jackman and R?isín Burke of Abarta Heritage.

With over 20 talks and interactive workshop sessions, the Learning Landscape Symposium 2019 will have something for everyone involved or interested in environmental and community engagement, developing skills and providing tools for place-based learning in any locality. The event comprises a combination of keynote lectures and themed workshops in venues around the lovely village of Kinvara, with site-based workshops out in the stunning Burren landscape.

Further information can be found on 


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.


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



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Presenter: Derek Mooney

Series Producer: Ana Leddy


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