Seeing foxes around your neighborhood, even during the day recently? If so, it is likely because kit-rearing season is upon us. Young foxes, called kits or pups, are maturing and spending more time outside of the den, making sightings of them and adult foxes more likely.
For homeowners and others concerned about foxes being too close for comfort, biologists with the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission advise to remove all food sources from around the home and start with non-lethal deterrents to encourage foxes to leave on their own.
“This time of year, people are seeing families of foxes roaming around, exploring their environment,” said Falyn Owens, the Commission’s extension biologist. “And while seeing foxes, even during the daytime, is usually no cause for concern, we understand that some people don’t necessarily want a family of foxes living so close at hand.”
Owens recommends the following tips to keep foxes from getting too comfortable near your home:
Never intentionally feed foxes or otherwise reward them for coming near humans. While lack of fear may be the goal for some who want to see wildlife up close, to neighbors and other people, fearlessness is easily mistaken for aggression or disease;
Feed pets indoors or remove all food and dishes when your pet is finished eating outside. Foxes, raccoons, and other wildlife will hang around if they know there is free food;
Secure garbage in containers with tight-fitting lids and take them out the morning of pick-up rather than the night before;
Keep bird-feeder areas clean and use bird feeders that keep seed off the ground. Removing bird feeders entirely may be necessary if fox sightings are frequent;
Clear fallen fruit from around trees;
Close off crawl spaces under sheds, porches, decks, and homes so foxes and other wildlife can’t use those areas for resting or raising young;
Install sturdy fencing around dog runs, chicken coops and rabbit pens to protect unsupervised domestic pets and poultry.
It is illegal to relocate foxes in North Carolina, in part to prevent the unintentional spread of diseases. As a result, any removals require that the animal be humanely euthanized.
“Fortunately, there are several effective non-lethal strategies that can make foxes uncomfortable enough to leave on their own — no trapping required,” Owens said.
Owens suggests placing a spotlight on the ground, pointed toward the den entrance. Another suggestion is to play talk radio right next to the den, at as high a volume as seems appropriate, until the foxes relocate somewhere more secluded.
“Yelling, banging pots or throwing small objects in their direction can scare foxes away in the immediate moment,” Owens said. “It’s an easy way to communicate to them that their presence won’t be tolerated.”
Not everyone, though, wants to scare foxes away. “Leaving a fox den alone to enjoy the spectacular wildlife viewing is always an option for homeowners, as long as people leave the den and kits alone, walk pets on a leash, and teach children to enjoy wildlife from a safe distance,” Owens said. “Though unlikely to be dangerous, they are wild animals, and should be treated as such.”
North Carolina is home to two species of foxes: the gray fox and the red fox. The gray fox is the state’s only native fox species; red foxes were originally imported from Europe. They are both relatively small canids, standing between 12 to 16 inches high at the shoulder and weighing between 7 to 15 pounds — much smaller than an average-size Labrador Retriever.
Both species are found throughout the state, including in urban areas and suburbs. As with other wildlife species, foxes are very adaptable and often find residential areas to be excellent places to live and raise their young.
Foxes only use a den while raising their young, so once the kits are old enough to fend for themselves, usually by mid to late summer, they will abandon the den and move on.
“It’s helpful to think of the den as a crib or nursery; adult foxes don’t use them,” Owens said.
If foxes are causing property damage and non-lethal methods have been ineffective, additional removal options are available. For more information, read the Commission’s “Coexisting with Foxes” resource.
For questions regarding human interactions with foxes or other wildlife, visit ncwildlife.org/Have-A-Problem.
Photo by Linda Stenzel of NCWRC/Contributed.