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(Mangy) Fox on the Run: Leave Them Alone—They Won't Hurt You

Fox sightings have become fairly common in the Northborough police log. Have you seen one?

In May, Craig Cressey contacted MassWildlife with concerns about a fox. A fox that was visiting him fairly frequently.

Cressey lives on the third floor of the Avalon apartment complex in Northborough, which overlooks a small retention pond, and he had noticed on several occasions a fox visiting the area, presumably to hunt for rodents.

An avid hiker and nature lover, he's trekked up mountains throughout country, during which he has seen and been approached by many different animals, from marmots to to moose to mountain goats.

Although the fox appeared to be acting healthy, Cressey said, his "appearance seems less than healthy." 

"I first started seeing this fox in March," he said. " I have seen him on several occasions as he wanders around the pond looking for rodents. I saw and filmed him catching and eating a mole. I can't be certain all the sightings were the same fox but I'm assuming so, as he is always alone."

Being a "dog and cat friendly" community, Cressey wanted neighbors to be aware of the visitor.

Sending photos to MassWildlife, he was told, "This fox has mange, which is not unusual. Fortunately at this time of year they have a better chance of recovering from it than if it’s winter and cold. Do not try to approach or feed it as it’s important that wild things remain wild."

"I would never approach a wild animal nor would I feed one," said Cressey. "I have a high level of respect for wild animals and the natural world. Once a wild animal has been habituated, they lose their ability to fend for themselves."

According to the Tufts Veterinary School's website, "Red fox are susceptible to mange, a disease caused by the mite Sarcoptes scabei. Mange mites burrow into the skin, thereby causing irritation, skin thickening (hyperkeratosis), and hair loss. Infected individuals may make it through the summer months, but quickly succumb to hypothermia once winter arrives. This mite also burrows under the skin of many animals, including dogs, foxes, and humans! It can cause severe itching, crusting and inflammation of the skin. Sarcoptic mange is a highly contagious disease most effectively transmitted by direct contact. Luckily for us, the mite does not survive off the host in the environment for more than a few days. Human infection with Sarcoptes scabiei is called "scabies" and usually goes away in healthy individuals without treatment, unlike infection in wild animals. Young or debilitated animals are more susceptible to disease because their immune systems aren´t functioning at full strength."

Fox families are being noticed frequently this time of year because the kits (young foxes) are venturing from their dens and starting to explore, according to Marion Larson, chief of information and education at the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife.

"We get many calls at this time of year due to this seasonal activity," she said. "It’s not unusual at all for foxes to den under porches, sheds or walls in residential areas. I’ve had fox families in the past out on my property.  People should just leave the foxes alone, refrain from feeding or leaving out bird seed or pet food and continue to use their property. Foxes have no interest in people, even kids. They are skittish and will run away (adult foxes too) if they feel threatened.  If they feel there is a lot of human activity the parent foxes will move the young to an alternative den site further from people."

Visit the Living with Foxes page for more hints and info.

 

 

 

 

 

Red fox are susceptible to mange, a disease caused by the mite Sarcoptes scabei. Mange mites burrow into the skin, thereby causing irritation, skin thickening (hyperkeratosis), and hair loss. Infected individuals may make it through the summer months, but quickly succumb to hypothermia once winter arrives. This  mite also burrows under the skin of many animals, including dogs, foxes, and humans! It can cause severe itching, crusting and inflammation of the skin. Sarcoptic mange is a highly contagious disease most effectively transmitted by direct contact. Luckily for us, the mite does not survive off the host in the environment for more than a few days. Human infection with Sarcoptes scabiei is called "scabies" and usually goes away in healthy individuals without treatment, unlike infection in wild animals. Young or debilitated animals are more susceptible to disease because their immune systems aren´t functioning at full strength. (The above paragraph came from the Tufts Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine and the New York Dept of Environmental Conservation’s website on foxes.)

 

Marion

 

Marion E Larson

Chief, Information & Education

Mass. Division of Fisheries & Wildlife

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