The RSPCA said the latest tragic incident involved two fox cubs becoming tangled at the end of the net in a north London garden.
RSPCA Animal Rescue Officer Holly Walker described it as a “very disturbing sight” and said the animals became entangled in a football net overnight.
She said: “One of the boys had already died of strangulation, the other was fortunately alive but suffering from a badly swollen leg where the mesh had tightened around it.
“Her mother, the fox, watched helplessly as one of her cubs gave up the fight for life.”
That, she said, was the second incident in just one week she’d attended helping entangled baby foxes, with her colleagues being called out on multiple web incidents.
She said: “It’s really important that people understand how deadly football nets can be and how often incidents like this happen.
“Please, please remember to put away your sports net after use and never leave it unattended, especially overnight.”
Greater London recorded 339 incidents
In 2021, the RSPCA received a total of 2,055 reports of animals caught in nets, with Greater London receiving the highest number of reports at 339.
RSPCA Scientific Officer Evie Button said: “Football and other types of nets can be fun for humans but very dangerous for wild animals if left out overnight.
“The RSPCA receives hundreds of calls each year to rescue animals – often wild animals – that have become entangled in nets from sports equipment or garden netting.
“Our officers are very busy rescuing animals that have become entangled in sport nets and in recent months we have had a spate of young foxes in particular that have become entangled. At this age they are very curious but unaware of the dangers.
“Getting tangled in a web is very stressful for an animal, especially a wild animal. And if the animal becomes seriously entangled, nets – whether it’s playing sports, fencing or gardening – can cause serious injury or, as has recently been observed, even death.”
Of the 519 incidents reported to the RSPCA in 2021 of wild mammals becoming entangled in nets, 260 were related to foxes, 135 to hedgehogs and 60 to deer.
The RSPCA said in just one week last month (May) an RSPCA officer, Louis Horton, dealt with six separate incidents of fox cubs becoming entangled in sports nets across London and the Surrey region.
People are discouraged from trying to free the animal from the net on their own as animals can sustain serious injuries if they become entangled, so it’s best to examine them to see if they need veterinary treatment before committing to be released.
To continue to support the RSPCA in rescuing, rehabilitating and housing animals in need of urgent care, visit their website or call their donations hotline on 0300 123 8181.