Seeing foxes in your neighborhood isn’t a cause for concern, says Dollison
As a way to escape the constant threat of coyotes, foxes have moved into more urban areas, included small Iowa communities. Matt Dollison, Iowa Department of Natural Resources Wildlife Biologist said he receives numerous calls per week about foxes in residential areas.
Dollison said coyotes will actively kill foxes, as they are both canines and fight for territory. With fox being half the size of a coyote, it’s an easy kill, he said. Therefore, the foxes are moving to town.
“Coyotes are adverse to being in town because of dogs and humans, but foxes aren’t. It is a safe place for them to live,” said Dollison.
There are more than 20 species of foxes, but the red fox is most common. They can be found on every continent except Antarctica, and are successful in many different environments because of their intelligence and ability to easily adapt.
Dollison said the fox’s main diet is rabbits, squirrels and mice. The average fox weighs between 10-15 pounds, so a housecat can be a much more difficult meal option. Foxes have a lifespan of three years if in the wild.
“They aren’t destructive and there has never been a report of a foxes attacking a human, ever in the entire world,” Dollison said. “They will generally run away or hide from humans; just let them be.”
Additionally, Dollison said it is a rarity for fox to have rabies. In the 15 years he has been with the IDNR, he has never run across a rabid fox.
“People think that if you see a fox during the day it must be rabid, but there isn’t any truth to that,” Dollison said.
Generally solitary and territorial, Dollison said a mated pair of foxes will stay together with their litter until the kits are mature. Litters generally range from two to six kits, which are born in the spring. The kits will mature in late that summer. He added the family will most likely disband at this point, but sometimes a vixen’s mature kits will remain near their mother’s range, and occasionally the vixen’s mature female kits will help their mother raise the next litter.
Dollison said as cute as the kits are, it is important to not to feed them or initiate contact in order to ensure that they don’t lose their fear of humans, which will lead to a host of serious problems.
As for what a fox sounds like, Dollison said they produce vocalizations including whines, barks, yips, huffs, yowls, howls and a chattering sort of sound called gekkering. However, because foxes are nocturnal and humans don’t usually see them make these sounds, most people are unaware they make noise at all.
An upside to fox residing in more urban areas, said Dollison, is the safety of grassland birds, like pheasants. Fox are the number one predator of nesting pheasants, not only eating the eggs, but also being quick enough to eat the hen itself.
To prevent foxes from visiting your yard, Dollison recommends the following: do not leave pets outside unattended; do not leave pet food outside; keep garbage in a secure container and only put it outside on the morning of pick-up; do not put any meat scraps in compost heaps; pick up fallen fruit from underneath trees; and cut back brush around your property that might provide cover for coyotes or their prey.