Posted on Friday, December 23, 2016 at 1:08 p.m.
A red fox’s natural tendency is to flee
It is true that to see a fox in a place where people live is a strange sight and that no one should ever try to pet or corner a fox without expecting some kind of unwelcome behavior. However, in general, foxes are not especially dangerous to humans or to most pets. Usually, the best thing is leave foxes alone, but here are a few pointers on what to do about the most common fox concerns.
Red foxes are found in all of Canada’s provinces and territories, making them one of the country’s most wide-spread mammals. The red fox generally lives on the edges of wooded areas, prairies and farmlands and often lives among people in cities and towns, where scavenging for food makes life easy. “The fox can get quite comfortable in residential areas like Embrun and Russell”, said Heritage Wildlife Management Director Paul Mussell.
Fearful, suspicious and relatively intelligent, the red fox is rather solitary and territorial, sleeping in the open and keeping warm by wrapping itself with its long bushy tail. However, in the springtime, which is breeding season, is the only time when it lives in a den and family then becomes its social nucleus.
Although quite a nuisance for homeowners, dens under porches, decks or sheds do represent a convenient spot for a fox family. If this were to occur, hazing rituals should encourage a sooner than later move. To do so, disturbing those unwanted residents by packing leaves, soil or mulch in den openings may be a humane harassment option. As well, placing urine-soaked kitty litter, sweat-soaked T-shirt or a pair of smelly socks or sneakers might even do the trick.
However, if kits have started popping out, allowing daddy dog and mommy vixen to stay until the young are old enough to begin accompanying their parents on foraging outings is definitely the best option.
Generally active during the early hours of the night and wee hours of the morning, it can also adapt its schedule according to food available and be observed during the day.
The red fox feeds on a large number of rodents such as mice, rats, marmots and squirrels. It is useful for controlling population explosions, which are common in some of these species. They will also feed on small livestock such as poultry, rabbits or other small newborn animals.
The red fox doesn’t just eat meat, though. It also likes to eat plants, fruits and berries. Even when the red fox is not hungry, it will keep hunting and gathering food to store for its next meal, similar to squirrels.
Mussell recommends not leaving any pet food outside, as it will attract foxes, not to mention coyotes. Moreover, making really loud noises may be an effective deterrent for these animals. “If there is no fear, that’s when the animals become bolder” added Paul Mussell.
A typical adult cat is almost the same size as a fox and has a well-deserved reputation for self-defense and would therefore not likely become a prey. “Although the red fox may pose a threat to very small cats, they do not represent any danger unless they are sick, let’s say with mange or rabies” he explained.
Firstly, mange is a class of skin diseases caused by parasitic mites leaving poor hairy coat and causing hair loss, especially around the tail. On the other hand, rabies is a saliva-spread virus that make them act strangely tame or gnaw on their limbs. However, the last rabid fox reported in Ontario was in 2009, according to the Ontario government website.
Nonetheless, in order to avoid any risk of transmission of disease or infection, one should always be wary of foxes with unusual behavior and never handle or let one’s pet close to fox carcass or feces. Finally, pet owners should stay on top of any vaccinations needed.
The red fox can adapt to a wide variety of shelters and food, which are offered in this region’s rich agricultural and abundant forest environment. This foxy animal may be a very prolific and opportunistic mammal, yet, it is mostly only guilty of being a chicken thief.