Red foxes are found throughout Canada in all provinces, though absent in coastal B.C. Although very common, their shy and mostly nocturnal nature can make them hard to spot. Foxes are both cunning and cautious, capable of thriving in urban, suburban and rural areas.
They play an important role in our ecosystems because small mammals, including mice and rats, are a staple of their diet. They are omnivorous and will readily eat whatever food is available including berries and other fruit, grasses and vegetables, birds and mammals, and even invertebrates like beetles and crayfish.
Foxes are naturally wary of people, and will ignore or avoid people most of the time. However, foxes may become habituated to people if they are repeatedly attracted to scraps from garbage, compost and pet food, or if people intentionally feed them.
You can help protect foxes and avoid conflicts:
- Never feed them. If foxes get used to being fed by humans, they will lose their fear of people, which can lead to unwanted conflicts and aggression.
- Manage rodent attractants like seed from bird feeders and fallen fruit so foxes are not drawn to your property; small mammals like rodents are a large portion of their diet.
- Keep garbage cans and compost bins clean and secured. Foxes are also scavengers who will take advantage of any available food sources.
- Seal off spaces under decks, porches. These areas look like a cozy den to an expecting mom. Inspect your home and seal off any areas you don’t want an animal to den or nest in.
- Keep your dog on leash when out walking, and never let your dog interact with a fox.
- Keep cats indoors, and monitor pets and small children outside.
If you are approached by a fox
Foxes are naturally shy and aloof, and in most cases they are not a risk to people. Even when habituated to food or people, they aren’t likely to approach, but they may get a little too close for comfort. If you see a fox that doesn’t run away:
- Make yourself big and loud. Wave your arms in the air, wave a stick, stomp your feet and yell, “Go away!”
- Pick up small children and pets.
- Do not run. Maintain eye contact, keep making yourself big and loud, and slowly move away.
- Report aggressive or threatening encounters by calling the Conservation Officer Service at 1-877-952-7277.
- Find a wildlife rehabilitator if you see or suspect a sick or injured fox. Find your nearest wildlife rehabilitation centre in B.C., or call our Provincial Call Centre at 1-855-622-7722 for advice.
Dealing with fox dens
Foxes build dens to raise their kits and stay there until the kits are able to hunt for themselves. Sometimes they will build these dens underneath decks or porches, or even in earth banks on urban properties. It can be a joy to overlook such a playful and fascinating nursery, but sometimes these dens are in a truly unsuitable area.
It’s best to wait until the babies are old enough to travel on their own. Although if needed, foxes can be encouraged to move their kits to a new den site using humane harassment. For example:
- Play a talk radio near the den site
- Set up a light near the den site
- Soak rags in apple cider vinegar, and place them in containers nearby
Doing the steps above for a few days in a row is often enough to convince foxes to move along. Once the family has left, seal off unsuitable areas so they don’t become a den again for another animal.