Animal lover Richard Lavelle has baffled experts by getting foxes to stand on their hind legs.

Every night, Mr Ravelle, an 80-year-old retired GP, gets the animals to perform the feat in his garden in Littleover, Derbyshire, in return for some food.

Animal lover baffles experts by training foxes to stand on their hind legs (small clue: feeding them helps)

By Andy Dolan (external - login to view)
17th April 2009
Daily Mail

It is rare enough to see a fox venture this close to a human - let alone stand up on its hind legs and beg.

But this fellow knows that such bravery will earn him a hearty meal.

The fox and his family perform their begging tricks every night at the bottom of Richard Lavelle's garden.

Enlarge There's a good boy: Richard Lavelle has amazed animal experts by training foxes to mimic behaviour usually displayed by pet dogs desperate for a treat

Dr Lavelle, a retired GP, has amazed animal experts by training the foxes with scraps of turkey and ham.

Up to seven a night now creep in and wait for him to open the back door. As obedient as pet dogs, they stand bolt upright on his command, deftly catching the morsels he throws.

They are so used to the meal that if he is out for the day they will sit and wait patiently on his drive until he returns home.

The foxes began to visit Dr Lavelle's garden at his home in Littleover, Derby, five years ago.

He said: 'A mother fox had some cubs in a den on some allotments at the bottom of my neighbour's garden, so I started to offer them food.

'When the mother died, the cubs kept coming up into my garden and now I am seeing the second generation.'

Mr Lavelle throws some food towards a fox which stands up in anticipation

Dr Lavelle, 80, a widower and grandfather, initially tried to teach the foxes to sit for their supper, but when that failed he began waving titbits above their heads until they learned to stand.

'They cost me a fortune in food but I just love them, love being able to help them,' he said.

His relationship with the animals has left his granddaughter, Josie, mesmerised.

The eight-year-old said: 'You get to see what they are like really close up. Grandad is very quiet and patient.

'I call the mum Cheeky because she is always poking her nose into things and trying to get more food.'

Neighbours said that, thanks to Mr Lavelle's intervention, the foxes no longer dig up the allotments at the bottom of their gardens looking for food.

Neighbour Jessy Gill, 17, said: 'Foxes can be vicious but they have left the gardens and allotments alone since Richard started feeding them.

'He did say he had trained them to stand up but we didn't believe him. Now you can see it, it is amazing.'

Nick Brown, education manager at Derbyshire Wildlife Trust, said he had not heard of anyone successfully training foxes in this way before, adding: 'The fact that the foxes go so close is a tribute to his patience.'

But the RSPCA urged people not to train or feed foxes as they can become dependent on humans to survive.

Spokeswoman Helen Briggs said: 'It's not ideal to encourage wild animals to come to your door to feed. They could easily become dependent on you and then what happens when you move away?

'But foxes are very difficult to train. They are very weary of humans, even in urban settings where there is frequent contact.

'We've never heard of a fox being trained to stand on its hind legs, and as long as they don't do it for too long then it shouldn't do them any harm.'