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Wildlife and the Outdoors
By Mitchell Marks, Wildlife Biologist, Freedom Hills Wildlife Management Area
As rural areas give way to sprawling suburbs, it is inevitable that wildlife and people will face more interaction. Some animals adapt well to suburban settings and the red fox is one of them. Historically the red fox has a reputation of being a thief, looking for an easy meal, commonly known for stealing chickens from the hen house. But today in many suburban settings, they are making their living on discarded table scraps and by stealing pet food from back porches and open garages. They have not stopped hunting small mammals and birds that normally make up the majority of their diet, but why chase a meal when one is lying right in front of you?
In an urban or suburban setting, red fox will make their dens in burrows, often under out-buildings, barns and garages. After mating in January or February, red fox normally produce a single litter of young (called kits) in late spring. To provide for their kits, adults hunt constantly. Any food from anywhere will do. More often than not, it is at this point each year that the phones at the states wildlife offices, city and county animal control facilities and a few police and sheriff’s departments’ start ringing. It seems strange that an animal, typically the size of a large house cat (8-15 pounds), can stir up such a ruckus. Comments and concerns from the callers about a fox being seen around their homes or neighborhoods vary as much as the names of the individuals making the calls. Some are concerned children will be attacked, and some are worried about pets, while others are bothered that a wild animal is in their yard.
On the other hand, some are thrilled by what for them is a new and unique observation and want to report it to wildlife authorities. Red fox are not known for attacking children or pets. Their primary diet consists of small mammals such as mice, rats, rabbits, and birds as well as persimmons, poke berries and other fruits.
As with most wild mammals, the red fox can and occasionally does contract rabies. Though the incidence is extremely low, any fox or other wild mammal that appears overly friendly, sick, or exceptionally aggressive should be avoided.
The red fox may be a wild animal that has learned to live among people, but it poses no serious danger to people or their pets.
The Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources promotes wise stewardship, management and enjoyment of Alabama’s natural resources through five divisions: Marine Police, Marine Resources, State Lands, State Parks, and Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries.