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Monday, March 5, 2012

'How I killed the biggest fox in Britain': Monster measured 4ft 9in and weighed 38lbs


Haul: Alan Hepworth holds up the giant fox he shot in Aberdeenshire

Hunted down after savaging a farmer’s lambs, this is the largest fox ever recorded in the UK.

The beast weighed almost three stone and was nearly five feet long – more than double the average size of the species.

It was shot and killed by farmer Alan Hepworth who, at just 5ft 7in himself, was only just able to haul his catch up for a photograph.

He said: ‘I was out with my son. We have to shoot foxes to keep on top of them, and stop them from killing the lambs.

‘It was late at night, and this particular fox caught our eye because it was such an incredible size.

‘We made a squeaking noise to get its attention, and then shot it.

‘When we went over to pick it up, we were amazed by quite how big it was. I could only hold it for a while because it was so heavy and was nearly as big as a roe deer.’

Mr Hepworth later decided to weigh the fox after realising it would probably be the largest he had ever shot.

And the 69-year-old found it weighed a staggering 38lb 1oz and was 4ft 9in from its nose to the tip of its tail.

Monster: To give a sense of scale, seven-year-old Archie Wright stands next to a 26.5lb fox, which up until now had been the largest recorded in Britain

Experts say it is the biggest to have been recorded in the UK.

He said: ‘I’m 5ft 7in, and it was 4ft 9in. When I held it up, it was almost the same size as me.

‘It was a big beast and much heavier than anything I’d killed before, so I knew it would be the heaviest I’d found when I weighed it.

‘I was surprised to hear it was the biggest fox ever recorded in the UK, though.

‘If I’d have thought more about it at the time I’d have maybe taken it to a taxidermist, and kept it as a memento, but we just buried it like all the other foxes we shot.’

Stark contrast: Foxshooter Roy Lupton displays a normal fox beside the 26lb monster shot by Keith Talbot to show the difference in size

Mr Hepworth, from Moray in north-east Scotland, said he killed the fox on a friend’s farm in neighbouring Aberdeenshire.

He added: ‘When I showed people the picture of me holding up the fox, they didn’t believe it. Especially how long it was. But I can definitely say it’s real. You never forget holding an animal that size.’

The Handbook of British Mammals says foxes usually weigh up to 15lb.

Brazen: Foxes are increasingly losing their fear of humans and more and more like this one have been spotted in people's homes

Experts believe the find is further evidence that foxes are increasing in size.

Jonathan Reynolds, senior research scientist at the Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust, said: ‘A 38lb fox would have been unthinkable a few years ago.

‘We don’t know why they are getting bigger, but one possible explanation is that they are getting better fed in urban areas.’

Derek Yalden, president of the Mammal Society, said many foxes were getting bolder in towns and cities because they were ‘more used to seeing humans’.



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