Q: We have just discovered a family of foxes — mother and three kits — are living under our patio deck. We live in a developed neighborhood in Winston-Salem with lots of children nearby. How can we get rid of the foxes? Who can we contact to help with removal?

B.C.

Answer: It is illegal to relocate foxes in North Carolina because of the potential to spread diseases and because the animal would likely not survive. “The solution is to modify your habits and prevent foxes from being attracted to your home,” according to the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission.

If a fox has caused property damage or is a potential threat, you can hire a wildlife damage control agent through the commission at 866-318-2401 or at www.ncwildlife.org/have-a-problem. Scott McNeely of McNeely Pest Control, one of the authorized wildlife control agents in Forsyth County, said that they first encourage the use of repellents and other non-lethal techniques to chase away foxes.

Immature foxes (kits) this time of year are like 15-year-olds, he said. “They’re big enough to get in trouble but don’t know what to do.” They will eventually learn how to avoid humans, and in the next month or so they should vanish. After that, you may want to seal off the area they were staying in to keep them from returning next year.

By state law, if they have to be trapped, they must either be released on the same property or euthanized, he said.

But in many cases, such steps are not necessary. Kit-rearing season is at its peak lately, with young foxes spending more time outside of the den, which makes sightings more likely.

“This time of year people are seeing families of foxes roaming around, exploring their environment,” said Falyn Owens, the Commission’s extension biologist, in a news release. “And while seeing foxes, even during the daytime, is usually no cause for concern, we understand that most people don’t necessarily want a family of foxes living so close to them.”

Owens recommends the following tips to keep foxes away from your home:

  • Never intentionally feed foxes; doing so rewards them for coming near humans.
  • Feed pets indoors or remove all food and dishes when your pet is finished eating outside.
  • Secure garbage in containers with tight-fitting lids and take them out the morning of pick-up.
  • Keep bird-feeder areas clean or remove them temporarily.
  • 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 fox-proof fencing around home, chicken coop, or rabbit pen to protect unsupervised domestic pets and poultry.

Some ideas for dissuading them include placing a flashlight or spotlight on the ground pointed toward the den entrance; playing a radio on a talk show station; or banging pots and pans and use noise-making devices.

“Not everyone, though, wants to scare away foxes,” according to the commission. “Leaving a fox den alone is an option for homeowners, as long as they stay away from the den site, leave the kits alone, walk pets on a leash, and teach children to enjoy wildlife from a safe distance.”

You can read more at tinyurl.com/foxfactsheet.

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Email: AskSAM@wsjournal.com

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Write: Ask SAM, 418 N. Marshall St., Winston-Salem, NC 27101 

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