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woodswell 04-29-2008 12:40 AM

Grey Foxes odd behavior
 
We are lucky enough to have resident foxes on our 60 acre North Florida farm. In years past it's been red foxes but for the first time this year we have grey foxes. They seem to be very bold - they come right up to the house and even on the open front porch. We hear them barking outside almost every night. But all our wildlife including the deer and turkey know they are safe here since we allow no hunting and provide them with a great habitat.

Last week one of our cats got in a fight with one of the foxes ON the porch. As soon as it saw me it took off running. I was concerned enough to call around to the local authorities to see if there had been cases of rabies in the area.

One of the wildlife rescue people told me me they had not heard of any cases. She also mentioned that this time of year around here the females have young that they are hunting for and they become very bold.

Well, in the last several days I have seen three grey foxes at the same time - a large one and two "half pints" that are probably just old enough to be out on their own. I suspect they are trying to carve out their own territory.

Tonight we heard a terrific battle out in the field - it sounded like a fox and a cat though both our house cats were inside. I went out on the porch but couldn't see anything much until one of the "half pints" came trotting under the fence, growling. Even when he saw me he was not intimidating and continued to growl and move towards the house. I clapped my hands and he trotted around the front of the house, but kept stopping and staring at me.

I am now concerned that either the young foxes are so inured to human presence they have no respect or that there is rabies and we may have to have the foxes trapped and quarantined.

Is anyone familiar with the normal behavior of grey foxes and whether I should be concerned? Or should I just keep my cats in at night until the half pints find their own territory?

MissDolittle 04-29-2008 01:28 PM

Re: Grey Foxes odd behavior
 
Heyas woodswell and welcome! Unfortunately I have no experience with foxes, but the symptoms and signs would fit rabies...it would also fit distemper. At least in other mammals. Hopefully somebody else knows more about this.

Please be careful and keep us updated!

woodswell 04-29-2008 06:01 PM

Re: Grey Foxes odd behavior
 
MissDolittle,
I got hold of a local wildlife rescue center today. They told me right now they are getting ten or more calls a day with similar stories and that this is normal for the foxes. The females are weaning their kits and the kits are playing dominance games with anything that gets in their way.

I do have a call in to the local Health Department epidemiologist to see if there have been any cases of rabies reported, but the wildlife rescue center had not heard of any cases. I suspect they would know before the epidemiologist would!

Kirial 04-29-2008 09:22 PM

Re: Grey Foxes odd behavior
 
We have a spot at the foundation of the barn that has washed away just enough over the years to provide a little crawlspace to the inside. With a good supply of barn swallows and mice that are locked up nice and tight for the winter, it's a warm, safe, buffet. So, for the last 5 or 6 years the same fox has come to nest in it for the winter, and we get to watch her raise 2-3 babies every year. As we have chickens, they aren't the most welcome wildlife, but we also have dogs that make sure the fox knows exactly how far she can go.

There is a pond right by the barn where our geese swim, and innevitably every year at least one of the tiny little kits becomes so bold as to imagine a Gander buffet, and one even ventured so far as to try to eat our german sheperd cross. We did catch one cub in the chicken yard, but the roosters ended up catching him before we could shoo him out.

Young foxes seem to lack that sly wariness that we humans so often see from the adults. From about 2-9 months of age they believe themselves to be 10ft tall. I would make sure your cats and any other pets or stock are locked up out of reach at night for a while until the fox egos have come under control.

In addition, I have noticed that the typical wildlife-encounter tricks seem to do just fine in spooking them, and it helps them realize their bounds easier. And if you just cant manage to look intimidating, flashlights do wonders. Shining it at them to block their view of you buys you time to back away from any youngsters that have crossed the line.

Things I do not suggest: Waving sticks, throwing rocks, or other maliciously aggressive behaviors. Such an obvious threat can actually change their little dominance check into a pre-emptive strike. Barking (any quick sharp shout like "Hey!" or "get!", not necissarily "Woof!"), clapping, puffing, and waving arms are acceptable, natural responses that the kits will understand from their past encounters with other animals.

MissDolittle 04-30-2008 07:19 AM

Re: Grey Foxes odd behavior
 
Wow, lots of good information, thanks!


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