Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Foxes Away!

The caller had a fox that had been “hanging around” his yard and wanted to know what could be done about it. What was really going on was that a fox had been passing through his yard several times a week throughout the past several months. Since this was not the time of year that there would possibly be pups or a den involved this is what I told him:

The reality is that foxes have adapted well to urban life all across the country and even in other parts of the world; coyotes, raccoons and skunks too. Since he had never witnessed the fox hunting in his own yard, nor had he noticed any signs of a den in the area it is most likely that two areas of this fox’s territory happened to fall on either side of this neighborhood.

But what about his dog and children? Foxes, and most wild animals for that matter, don’t want to have anything to do with humans or our pets. Aside from playful fox kits, they usually don’t want to expend any more energy than is necessary to procure their next meal. Since they are omnivorous, this could range from some berries under a mulberry tree to an occasional cottontail, but rarely anything larger. Unless we interfere with their natural behaviors by trying to habituate them or by taking risks that put vulnerable pets in tempting situations, the average person will never have a bad experience with an animal like this.

When incidents do occur between dogs or cats and wild animals it can turn out badly. We get hundreds of animals into the Center each year that have been rescued from the jaws of Fluffy or Fido. When larger animals are involved such as foxes, the situation usually involves a dog or cat trying to protect its own territory. This is why I always urge people to consider this fact with regards to their pets’ safety: if an animal is small enough that you would be concerned about an animal like a fox or a raccoon it shouldn’t be left alone, period. In my opinion, this also applies to every pet we take responsibility for. Additionally, cats who are let outside reportedly kill millions of songbirds each year regardless of how much they are fed. All pets will ultimately live longer, healthier lives if they are kept indoors or allowed outdoors only in safe, supervised situations. Most pet dogs and cats are more likely to have an incident with another dog or cat in their lifetime than with a wild animal that causes harm to them if we do our best to keep these guidelines in mind. While it is rare, there have been reports of foxes learning to live in harmony with outdoor cats and one gentleman even called to report that his dog had apparently befriended their local fox and he was having the hardest time trying to convince him to do otherwise!

As far as children go: it is our responsibility as adults to teach them respect for wildlife. This doesn’t mean that they should fear their wild neighbors. With development drawing more wildlife into the urban realm, now more than ever, we need to teach the kind of understanding that will help our children to protect the earth and all of its inhabitants into the future.

Most people will never be able to get close enough to a wild animal in a normal, respectful situation to be at risk of injury unless that animal is severely injured or ill. If a wild animal appears to be showing signs of being sick or injured, teach your children that the first thing to do is to go tell an adult. The best thing that adult can do is remove the children from the situation; then go back and assess the situation from a safe distance before or while they contact the Wildlife In Need Center or another wildlife specialist. These professionals can help to determine what may be at issue and whether or not action needs to be taken.

No comments:

Post a Comment