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Fox found in distressing scene on footy field, trying to 'frantically escape'

Across Australia and the UK, the RSPCA is urging sports lovers to pack up their equipment.

International sports like football and basketball are loved the world over, but images from Australia and the UK reveal failure to properly clean up after the game can kill and maim wildlife.

Problems arise when nets that are placed around goals are left on outdoor sports fields overnight. When people are safely tucked up in bed at home, wildlife believes it’s safe to enter sports grounds to hunt and play. But like barbed wire, fruit tree netting and sticky animal traps, nets can entangle wildlife resulting in serious injury and sometimes death.

On Monday, RSPCA England and Wales shared a heartbreaking series of photos showing a native fox caught in a football net. The incident was described by the charity as the “worst” case it had ever seen.

Left - close up of the fox's leg caught in the net. Right - an image showing the full fox caught in the net.
A fox became entangled in a football net in the UK. Source: RSPCA England and Wales

“Our animal rescuer was called to a fox tangled in a football net who had sadly broken his leg trying to get free,” it said in a social media post. “The tight net cut off the blood supply to his limb and damaged his bones from trying to frantically escape.”

Sadly, the injuries were so severe the fox, which is native to the UK, had to be euthanised.

An aerial view of a soccer pitch.
Sports nets should be taken down at the end of a game to prevent wildlife becoming injured. Source: Getty (File)

Birds and possums in Australia also impacted by sporting nets

Similar problems occur in Australia, with RSPCA Queensland revealing the dangers of nets “are less known” in Australia.

“In the past year, our Rescue Team have attended multiple callouts about birds, possums and snakes caught in these types of nets,” spokesperson Emma Lagoon told Yahoo News Australia. “It’s a timely reminder for people to store away these sporting nets when not in use, and check ones in the backyard or at schools regularly for any animal that may be caught in them.”

Left - a tawny frogmouth stuck in a soccer net. Right - the bird after it's been rescued, in the arms of the RSPCA
A tawny frogmouth was successfully removed from a football net in Queensland last year. Source: RSPCA Queensland
A corella caught in a basketball net.
A corella was caught in a basketball net in July. Source: RSPCA Queensland

Reminding Australians about the dangers of sporting nets, it released a series of videos and images from 2022, showing the impact they can have on native species. They include a tawny frogmouth caught in a soccer net in June and a corella entangled in a basketball net in July.

Other rescues have involved a snake and a ringtail possum caught in tree netting, a reminder to gardeners only to use wildlife-friendly brands with small holes. "The best netting to use on fruit trees are wildlife-friendly brands like Fruitsaver, Hailguard and Vegenet netting," Ms Lagoon said.

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