Wildlife

Foxes

Fox Facts

Fox with tree

Foxes live an average of four years in the urban setting and usually breed from January to March. Gestation is about 52 days, and six cubs is the average litter size. The parents share duties and the cubs are weaned at about five weeks. Cubs leave their parents in the fall. Adult foxes are usually most active at dawn and dusk, but will often be seen sunning during the day. 

The pups are often active throughout the daytime. Foxes are territorial and a pair will occupy an area of about four square km. Competition for available natural den sites sometimes forces the fox to create a den in a residential area.  The fox is omnivorous. Its diet includes small rodents, amphibians, reptiles and insects, as well as nuts, grasses, vegetables and fruit. Foxes will also go after small domestic animals such as rabbits and cats. During late spring and early summer foxes are seen more often because they hunt and forage more to feed their young.

Across the Greater Toronto Area, foxes have been very successfully vaccinated against rabies since 1989, by the Ministry of Natural Resources. The ministry advises that the removal of foxes from one area will open up territory for unvaccinated foxes to move in and potentially reintroduce the rabies virus.

In the city, foxes will live along the lake shore, beach, ravine and woody stream areas. If left undisturbed, foxes will sometimes make a den in residential areas, under decks or sheds or where there are a lot of bushes or shrubs.

When foxes do not feel threatened by people, they will live near homes and apartments. It is important to know that the only reported, unprovoked attack by a fox on a person was by a rabid fox. Our fox population in Toronto is well protected against rabies. This is especially important because the urban fox is less fearful of people and occasionally may come very near a person.

Solutions

Enclose areas underneath patio decks and sheds and other places where foxes may make a den. To keep foxes from burrowing under these sites, dig a trench around the base of the structure and use galvanized heavy wire screening as a prevention skirt. The screening should go at least 20 to 30 cm. straight down and 20 to 30 cm., angled 90° outwards underground. Backfill the area with dirt. If you pile rocks or other items over this area against the structure, the animal can burrow around the wire mesh barrier.

  • Closely watch small, domestic pets when they are outdoors, or, keep them inside.
  • Get rid of piles of rock, wood or debris. These attract small animals such as mice.
  • Foxes will eat garbage and pet food left outdoors.
    • Take your green bin and garbage containers to the curb on the morning of pick-up.
    • Use composers that are enclosed (rodent-proof).
    • Do not place pet food outside.
    • If you feed birds, the seeds can attract squirrels, which foxes prey on. 
    • Keep small pets indoors, especially cats and rabbits.
  • In early spring, spend more time in your back and side yards. Foxes will be more likely to visit or look for den sites near a home where people stay indoors most of the time.
  • If you see a fox in your yard, make loud noises directed at the animal. To chase the fox away, spray it with a garden hose. Loud noises and a squirt from a hose will not physically harm the animal but will make it feel unwelcome.

Evicting a Den of Foxes

Keeping these animals from moving in should be your first step, but the following ideas will help discourage and evict unwanted foxes:

  1. If you are not sure foxes are using a den site, look for fox fur and food remains nearby.
  2. Encourage foxes to leave on their own by making the den site unlivable.
    • Dig up the ground around entrances to the den.
    • Play a transistor radio tuned to a talk station at the entrance to the den. Turn the volume up loud.
    • Place dog hair in and around the site.
    • Place dog or human urine soaked rags in and around the den.
  3. When you are sure eviction is complete:
    • Secure the hole to prevent re-entry. Make sure that all boards or galvanized heavy wire screening extend at least 20 to 30 cm straight down and 20 to 30 cm angled 90° outwards underground (see diagram of prevention skirt). Foxes are excellent diggers and continuing the barrier at a 90° angle makes it much more difficult to dig under. Tip: using wire is better, foxes give up sooner.
    • Backfill the area with dirt.
    • Repair siding and holes in buildings.
    • Place wood or wire screening around the base of porches and buildings as a prevention skirt. Ensure that you cover these areas to at least 20 to 30 cm straight down and 20 to 30 cm angled 90° outwards underground.
    • Eliminate piles of rock or debris and stack woodpiles neatly to eliminate holes.

Trapping, Hunting and Poisoning

Live trapping using a humane trap has proven to be ineffective with foxes. Leg hold traps may only be operated by Ministry of Natural Resources licensed trappers. Illegal use of leg hold traps, discharge of firearms or use of poison can result in criminal charges and fines up to $5,000.

Unusual Behaviour

Foxes that are protecting their young, or injured and sick foxes, may behave strangely. If you see a fox growling and attempting to attack people, larger animals or inanimate objects, call 311. 

Also see how to wildlife-proof your home.

 


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