Recently, one of our grand-daughters caught a brief glimpse of a flash of red on their patio. It was dark and she did not see it very clearly. However, the next day, she saw the object more clearly further out in the yard, close to the fence line. It was a fox in the back yard!
At first, her mother had not sure that her daughter was correct in her identification. It was hard for her to believe that it was really a fox! After all, they do not live near a wooded area but in a very nice community of family homes with lots of children playing in their back yards. But, it did not take long for them to realize that they really did have a fox in the back yard.
When it became clear that the fox had been eating from the dog’s leftover food, they were more diligent in removing the food bowl the minute he finished eating. They hoped the fox in the backyard would go elsewhere to look for food. The parents were concerned about both their children and their dog.
Like most people, they did not know a lot about how a fox would interact with kids and other dogs. So, the mom called a local government agency to find out what the options might be for safely removing the fox in their back yard to another location.
The lady answering her call was amazing! She was also very passionate about sharing the facts about having a fox in the back yard. Some of these facts might surprise you! (I admit to adding a few facts myself)
Did You Know These Facts About Foxes?
They are members of the Animalia Kingdom, the Canidae family and the Mammalia Class. These animals are omnivorous. The Red Fox is both the largest and the most common of the 12 species and 47 subspecies.
Foxes are found on every continent except Antarctica. Most cultures have folktales about them and usually include stories about their cunning nature. The Arctic Fox is one of the very few with fur on their paw pads and they do not shiver in the cold. Foxes on the Sahara have furry paw pads to protect them from the hot sand.
A fox has both incredible hearing and its olfactory sense is even stronger than a dog’s! They have flattened skulls with triangular ears that stand upright and their snout is turned up. But if they are what is known as a Bat Fox, their ears are five inches long.
They use the earth’s magnetic fields to help them hunt. Specifically, the magnetic fields to assess the distance and direction of their prey. They can retract their claws and walk on their toes. This makes it easier for them to sneak up on prey.
What Else Are Foxes Called?
A female fox is called a Vixen. The male foxes are called tods, reynards and, most commonly, dogs. The babies are usually called Kits. Sometimes they are also called pups or cubs. Groups of foxes may be called an earth, a skulk or a leash. Foxes are pretty solitary animals and only breed once a year. They are most commonly born in March.
What Is A Fox Family Like?
The kits are born unable to see or walk. The Vixen nurses and keeps them in the den for 8 weeks while the father hunts and brings back the prey. Their parents care for them and, eventually teach them to hunt. As they mature, the young foxes may stay with the family or wander off to live on their own.
The Vixen is very protective of her offspring, as are most animal mothers. Her tongue has small spine like features that she uses to clean her kits. She has very sensitive whiskers and is more active after dark than in daylight hours. In some ways, they are similar to cats. Some of them can even climb trees! They do this to escape when being chased or to catch birds to eat.
The adult foxes and Kits leave the den where the babies were whelped within 8 weeks, moving on to better hunting grounds as a family. They do not live indefinetly in the nesting den where they were born. It is possible for the adults to return the next year to have their babies in a safe place.
A Few Foxes You Might Find To Be Of Interest
Although we think of a fox living in more rural areas, there are also urban foxes living in towns and cities. They adapt well to human behavior and changes in their lifestyle. Foxes may dig a den under sheds, bushes, trees or even railroad embankments.
All fox species are omnivores and eat a wide variety of foods. They eat small animals such as rabbits, lizards and rats as well as insects, fruit, vegetables and berries.
The Most Common Pet Fox Is A Fennec Fox
Their fun and safe interaction with humans led to them being the most commonly domesticated pet fox. They chase balls and sometimes take them from golf courses and backyards. A young fox is likely to engage in play with people or dogs if given the chance.
It is not uncommon for several of the fox species to become pets. If purchased, they are expensive and some states require that you have a permit to own a fox. A domesticated fox purchased from a pet store will not know how to hunt and their food is quite expensive. It may cost as much as $75 a week to provide proper nutrition for an adult fox.
What Is The Most Rare Fox Species?
This Sierra Nevada Red Fox is known for its incredibly beautiful coat. They are extremely rare with probably less than 50 of them left in the entire world. Only one has been seen in the wild in nearly a century (in 2015).
What Would You Do If You Found A Fox Family In Your Back Yard?
The government employee told us that as long a there was no indication of the fox having rabies that we should not worry. They would be done soon enough once the babies were big enough to start leave the birthing den.
She also informed us that foxes hate the smell of ammonia and it can be used to keep them away from any area we spray with it at full or half dilution with water. We were cautioned to spray trash cans to keep them out of them.
The lady also told us that as long as their head could slip through a space, their entire body could as well. Once the family leaves, we were encouraged to cover the space in the fence with a cloth covered with ammonia to keep them out in the future.
As for me, I am eager to see the entire fox family, especially the kits! They are likely to stay under the shed most of the time and only be out and about the last couple of weeks before they leave the backyard for parts unknown.
Sometimes It Is More Complicated To Have A Fox In The Backyard Than Others
Unfortunately, there are two dogs who live there already. Bella is a West Highland Terrier who is kept our of the back yard unless a human is with her because she can escape. The other is an English Mastiff (Drago) who is there much of the time.
It would be best to keep the dog and the fox family separated. No one wants any of the animals to be injured. The fox parents are likely to be very defensive of their babies (kits).
For now, they will need to limit Drago’s freedom outdoors. It will also be important to make sure his food and water is not left unattended and removed as soon as he is done with it.
If they wish to leave water close to the shed under which they have built their den, it should be ok. Nursing moms need lots of water. There is a debate about whether or not to leave any food as it may delay their natural progression to leaving the area.
If You Wish To Make The Fox In The Back Yard Go Away
There are several ways to discourage a fox from enjoying your property. First of all, make your property less desirable to them. Remove all hiding areas possible and do not leave out any easy food for them, including compost that contains scraps.
There are electronic devices that will make them leave. However, they are likely to be very unpleasant for all around including you and your neighbors. Your pets will not like it either.
You may use ammonia or other, commercial fox repellents. If you have a cat, you may find that used kitty litter will deter foxes as well. A recipe for a home-made repellent will be included at the end of this article.
Sound can drive them out as well. Talk radio set near the den works well most of the time. Some people bang pots and pans and talk loudly to make them move. Motion sensitive lights and sounds are very effective as well.
If you decide to call animal control, you need to be sure that you understand what they will do if they are asked to remove a fox. Some will do nothing. Others may remove them but, instead of relocating them to a safe haven, they will euthanize them.
Photo Courtesy of Suburban Wildlife Control
While I, personally, would love to have a fox family raise their kits in our back yard each year, not everyone feels this way. They do not harm people or pets but cats do not seem to like them. However, if you have chickens, it may be a different issue.
Most people who are lucky enough to have foxes in their yards take lots of photos and hope they come again. If this is not you, there are safe ways to encourage them to leave and to discourage/prevent them from coming back.
If you have any photos of foxes in your yard, please share them and your experience with the rest of us! We would love to see you photos and to hear your stories.
Dealing with a coyote and your dog is a very different story and you need to know how to keep your dog safe. https://happymutt.org/2550-2-how-to-keep-your-dog-safe/
The repellent below should also work on coyotes but there is much more you need to know to be sure to read that article if you have a dog.
Recipe For A Home-Made Repellent
This is one animal repellent that is easy to make. You can find several others on the internet as well.
- six cups of water
- one cup each of basil, geranium leaves and garlic or substitute with onions and sage
Bring the six cups of water to a near boil. Slowly add your preferred ingredients, one at a time. Turn down the heat and allow the mixture to simmer for thirty minutes. Once the mixture has cooled, separate the mushy ingredients from the herbal liquid.
Strategically spread the mushy portion throughout your property. Also, spray the herbal liquid over the complete perimeter of your yard. The scent from each of these will induce many wild animals to leave the area (or to prevent them from entering it).
Extra Photos Courtesy of Pexel