Red Fox (Vulpes vulpes) seem like such an iconic woodland creature. I can just picture them perfectly frolicking through the forest, catching mice, and sniffing at berries. Over time, this iconic picture shifted. Instead of a beautiful forest scene, more and more fox are found in Urban environments; wandering busy streets and dodging cars as they scamper over roadways. This area, the edge between woods and urbanized land is called an Ecotone – and fox have found their niche there!
Over the years, urban sprawl has increased and green spaces became fragmented as the human population continued to grow. This fragmentation created more “edge” space, or ecotones. Meadow-dwelling birds, rodents, and other small animals also love this space, thriving on the food sources of seeds while also being close enough to a wood’s edge to scamper back into if they need to hide. As more and more edge space appears, we also see more and more fox! We don’t need to be scared of them, we need to love them! And loving them doesn’t mean leaving out all manner of food for them…. (even though they aren’t picky and will definitely snag your food waste….)
Red fox are opportunistic predators that eat just about anything that can fit in their mouth – from mice, to rabbits, to birds, to our trash. When in an urban setting, the risk of losing a competition for food resources dwindles since people are very good at throwing away food – which then attracts all sorts of little rodents – a perfect menu for fox!
Human environments also provide valuable shelter. Have you heard scraping noises underneath your porch, or seen a mother fox dart underneath a shed? This may happen more often, especially if your home butts up against a wood lot, meadow area, or park. Your neighborhood is mimicking the ecotone that they so love!
At first, it may seem scary to have a predator living so close to us, but in reality, they aren’t going to harm us and they are beneficial to have around! As opportunistic predators, they are great at keeping rodent populations down in urban settings. Don’t you just love it when a mouse family makes their home in your kitchen walls?… NOT…. While they are talented hunters of moving prey, they also love snacking on fruit, berries and other seeds from plants like sunflowers! This makes fox valuable seed-disperses.
So, how can we live in harmony with this adorable opportunistic predator?
The first way is to NOT feed them. They don’t need any of our help getting food and the more we feed them, the more they’ll want to be as close to humans as possible. This can increase the number of fox road-kill as they search out human food. They also won’t get the proper nutrients that they need, which ultimately leads to death.
We can also keep our doggos on a leash when out exploring and hiking. Our pets may sniff them out and try to play with them or be threatened by them and act aggressively. This can hurt both your dog and the fox – and no one wants either of those things.
Watching fox kits grow up can be such an amazing experience, so if you want to potentially attract them to your area, try your hand at creating your own backyard ecotone! By building a wildlife habitat filled with native plants to attract songbirds and small mammals, thicket or dense vegetation areas to provide protection, a water source for drinking and for amphibian life, and open space, a fox mama may create a den and move in!
Another great way to show your love for our fox friends is to bring them home! No – don’t kidnap (or KITnap!!!) one from the wild. Visit my print shop to bring home your very own baby fox kit wall art! A portion of all print sales goes back towards wildlife conservation efforts.