By: Judi Stuart
Port Discover: Visitor Services Manager
Red or Grey, don't let those foxes out-fox you
The first time I saw the red fox in the yard, I was taking a walk down our long driveway. Startled, I stopped and looked at him, and he returned the stare. What bothered me was that he didn’t run as I expected even when I waved my hands and made noise.
That’s when I started backing up and ended the exercise for the day.
Later, we started seeing a gray fox walking through the back yard every day at about the same time. Hubby discovered a den with four pups under some tree branches. It was time for some research.
Both red and gray foxes live in all parts of North Carolina, but the gray fox is the native. European settlers who liked to hunt them brought red foxes to America in Colonial times. The same shade of red fur covers their heads, bodies, and tails, but the underside is light and its legs and tail are tipped with black. Gray foxes are smaller and have some red on their neck and legs, but their overall color is gray with dark streaks. The gray fox can climb trees and the red fox cannot.
Many people are afraid when they see a fox in the daytime and think it might be rabid or aggressive. In recent years, foxes have become used to the lack of threats by humans and the availability of food near urban areas.
If you see a den of pups, it is best to leave them alone until the babies are older and the family moves on. Try to fill the den with something like branches so that they will not nest there again.
There are several steps you can take to so that conflict with the fox will be reduced. Of course, you should never approach or try to pet a fox, and do not feed them or any wild animal. If they lose their fear of people, they might become more aggressive. Keep your pet’s food and garbage containers secured. Also, keep bird feeder areas clean and pick-up any fruit that has fallen from trees.
Keep your own pets away from the den because the fox may become aggressive if he feels threatened by another animal.
Close crawl spaces and places underneath porches so that they won’t be encouraged to rest there or build dens too close to your home. Yelling or banging pots and pans may discourage them also.
The most important thing to do is to teach children that they should never approach any wild animal. Foxes may be particularly attractive to children because they look like dogs.
Call local animal control if you see signs of rabies in any animal such as aggression, stumbling, turning in circles, or foaming at the mouth.
It is illegal to relocate foxes in North Carolina because if there is a problem, it will just spread. Mutual respect and caution is the key to living with wildlife nearby.