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A hospital maternity unit has contacted pest control to remove foxes, over fears the animals could enter the building.

Southmead Hospital in Bristol said it was looking for help capturing and ridding the site of the foxes “to ensure the safety of mothers and newborn babies”.

The proposals, made in a Facebook post last week, were met with anger from nearby residents.

One post called the plans “ridiculous” while another said: “Foxes would not put your patients in any danger. They are beautiful creatures. To kill them is totally heartbreaking and very wrong.”

The hospital said: “We are particularly concerned that at this time of the year with many of the unit’s windows open, there is a potential risk of foxes entering the building.

“We recognise that many people view foxes as part of everyday urban life now, but they are still potentially disease carriers.

“Therefore, to ensure the safety of mothers and newborn babies, we have needed to take action to manage the risk.

(Ben Birchall/PA)(Ben Birchall/PA)

“We have enlisted the services of a licensed pest control company and have asked for any foxes captured to be removed and treated humanely.

“While this is a last resort, we have to prioritise the safety of babies within our care.”

But the hospital later appeared to row back on the plans, saying it was “pausing all existing activity” while it looked at the recommendations of animal welfare organisations.