A recent increase in fox sightings serves as a good reminder that for all our civilized ways, we’re living on land that was previously inhabited by wild animals. Some are still around, and with a little foresight, we can co-exist.
Fox sightings in mainly urban areas have been on the rise in the last month or so, as recently born fox pups have matured and ventured outside their dens, the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission says. The gray fox is native to the area, but red foxes, which were initially brought over from Europe, are also thriving.
For the most part, that’s fine. Foxes generally dart away as quickly as they can when they encounter people.
But caution is warranted, too. In June, a Greensboro man was walking to his mailbox when he was bitten by a fox that darted from behind bushes, The Associated Press’ Gary D. Robertson reported. A woman in Concord was also bitten by a fox last month, the AP reported. Both foxes turned out to have rabies.
Fortunately, both victims were successfully treated with anti-rabies medication.
But, again, most encounters are harmless.
A Winston-Salem resident wrote to AskSAM last month after finding a fox family living under his patio deck, asking how to get rid of them.
The short answer for others who wonder how to react to foxes living nearby is not to mess with them — it’s against the law for an unlicensed person to remove and relocate foxes. If needed, a wildlife damage control agent can be hired to move the fox through the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission at 866-318-2401 or at www.ncwildlife.org/have-a-problem.
An alternative is to wait them out. Foxes usually leave once their pups are able to fend for themselves, usually by mid to late summer, notes Jodie Owen of the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission.
If they know you’re there, they won’t want to stay any longer than they have to.
They can be encouraged to leave by aiming a flashlight or spotlight into their den, or by playing loud music or an all-day talk radio station. Of course, that may bother the neighbors, too.
Under no circumstances should a fox be fed — or should anything be done that might make them lose their inbred fear of humans, Guilford County Animal Control officer Scott Hunter told BH Media. That’s asking for trouble.
But having a fox family nearby can be an educational experience. “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,” the Wildlife Resources Commission advises.
Foxes don’t represent the only risk from wildlife. Carolyn Ziglar of Rural Hall spotted a mid-sized black bear outside her home while she was picking up her newspaper one morning last month, the Journal’s Jenny Drabbled reported. Like most foxes, the bear ran away.
The real wild creatures to fear, of course, are ticks, which can carry Lyme disease and other illnesses. It’s always a good idea to check for ticks after being outdoors.
With a little patience, wildlife can generate a feeling of wonder and provide stories for the neighbors. Just use a little common sense and caution.