Pest controller Tom Keightley makes hundreds of pounds a day – as Britain’s first professional urban fox hunter.
The fully-licensed exterminator sits in clients’ upstairs bedrooms for several hours before shooting foxes with a .22 air rifle.
Tom charges up to £350 for his controversial ‘pest control’ service, and says he can take out between six and eight each night.
The Croydon-based fox hunter gets around a dozen calls a week from concerned residents about their pest problem.
Tom, 65, said: ‘I tend to shoot them because it’s quicker and kinder. Some people trap them first and then shoot them but they might be in the trap for hours, which isn’t very humane.
‘Most of the time I shoot from one of the bedroom windows and they don’t know I’m coming.’
Tom says his profession is entirely legal – he’s is legally entitled to shoot foxes from inside a dwelling in a built up area because he holds a number of firearms certificates and licences.
He is contracted to DEFRA to respond during animal disease outbreaks, dealing with infected livestock in the field.
He is also on the police call out system to humanely deal with deer or other animals injured in road traffic collisions.
Tom added: ‘It is legal. Foxes don’t have the same protection as, say, a badger. I always let the police know when I’m going to shoot a fox. I have a firearms certificate as well.
‘This has nothing whatsoever to do with fox hunting.
‘They’re urban foxes so it’s completely different. You’re not going to get a bunch of hounds running through a London suburb.’
The grandfather-of-two, who has been trained by the Humane Slaughter Association, added: ‘I quite like foxes really. In the countryside they don’t do much harm. But they are not welcome in cities.
‘Animal rights campaigners say that 50 per cent of young foxes are killed on the roads, and that is enough of a cull, but I think that’s ridiculous.
‘It’s crazy to rely on motorists to control any animal population – the damage to cars and potential loss of life is too great.
‘And more often than not the foxes suffer, because they’re not killed straight away. I cleanly kill the foxes, as painlessly as possible.’
While his services are sought-after by those who want rid of urban foxes, his career choice isn’t popular with everyone.
Animal-lover Peter Rafferty, of Croydon, who complained about Tom’s profession, said: ‘Foxes are not vermin – they are sentient creatures that have the same basic instincts and emotions as cats, dogs and humans.’
According to his website www.ukurbanfoxes.co.uk, one customer said: ”We were having problems with foxes, in each case he performed his duty in a thoroughly professional manner eliminating the problem to our complete satisfaction.
‘He also offered advice on dealing with any future fox infestation we may encounter and in every way most helpful.’
Another added: ‘An excellent service at a sensible price: Tom has dealt with all our invasive wild life problems – wasps, rats, mice and moles.
‘We were particularly pleased with his humane removal of foxes from our school grounds – highly recommended’.