Pest controllers have been forced to back down from plans to shoot up to 10 foxes in a quiet cul-de-sac tonight after residents complained the slaughter would be inhumane.

Property management company Nightingale Chancellors said campaigners had bombarded its office with emails protesting against the cull in Roehampton Close, Roehampton.

Wildlife management boss Bruce Lindsay-Smith - a self-styled "Dirty Harry" of the pest control world - planned to take “marksmen” to the estate this evening and use live ammunition to shoot the animals.

But Nightingale Chancellors, which warned residents to keep their pets indoors tonight, cancelled the booking with County Pest Control after police warned that campaigners planned to stage a protest.

A spokesman for Nightingale Chancellors, who refused to give his name, said: “We’ve been saturated by emails from people who know nothing about it.

“Apparently there’s a West Sussex Wildlife Protection Group. We’ve also been contacted by the police.”

He added: “The amount of fuss this has created is quite ridiculous, I can’t believe people haven’t got better things to do.”

Nightingale Chancellors, based in Sheen Road, Richmond, have now consulted a “humane pest control” expert to discuss how to deal with the fox problem.

The Roehampton Close Residents Association had complained the animals were fouling on the path and digging holes in the grounds, which they pay Nightingale Chancellors a fee to maintain.

Mr Lindsay-Smith insisted that shooting the foxes was the best way to get rid of them.

He said: “If rats were running round killing people they would exterminate every one of them, but because foxes are seen as cuddly and cute as they are portrayed in the media and books then obviously people’s feelings are stronger against anything being done.

“You can’t kill foxes without using live ammunition, it’s like you can’t make an omelette without breaking eggs.”

Resident Matthew Woodcock, 26, said: “If there’s a man in a residential area with a rifle and night vision goggles, it doesn’t look good for any council.

“I’m sure every time this guy walks into London even the police think: ‘We can really do with him not being here’. It does bring people like animal rights protesters, it’s an instant reaction from people to think we don’t want this to happen in a residential area.”

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