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Feeding and Interacting with Urban Foxes

The following information was provided by Tim Susman.

Interaction with Urban Foxes

Use common sense. Do not approach a wild fox. Observe them from a distance... there is a certain distance at which most wild foxes will tolerate people, and it is different for each fox.

Watching foxes can be very rewarding. If you have a zoom lens for your camera, you may be able to get some good pictures. More importantly, you may be able to get a glimpse into how foxes really live. Remember, though, that foxes already have the habit of moving from one den to another. If you disturb a den too much, the foxes may just move, and unless you see them moving, it is extremely difficult to find the den they've moved to.

Feeding foxes is tempting sometimes, but is usually not a good idea...

Feeding Urban Foxes

One of the issues I've been asked about most frequently is that of feeding wild foxes. As humans expand their living areas and foxes expand their range as well, contact is inevitable. Most of the time, foxes go out of their way to avoid humans, but they are discovering that humans are a good source of food. Resourceful and adaptable as foxes are, they will take advantage of this when they can.

Red Fox The best thing you can do for wild animals is leave them alone, unless they're injured. There are several concerns with feeding wild animals:

  • The most serious problem is that the animals may become habituated to people. As they lose their fear of people, they will become bolder in approaching people and may put themselves in hazardous situations they would normally avoid. Not all people are well-disposed towards wildlife, remember. Those who aren't actively hostile may be afraid of an over-friendly animal.

  • Another concern is that the animals, if fed regularly, will come to depend on humans for their food. They won't starve if you stop feeding them, but they will be hungry and unafraid of people, and could get very aggressive in approaching other people.

  • There is always the fact that these are wild animals. They may eat tamely out of your hand for weeks on end, and one day they may be startled by something and bite you.

Having said all that, I am aware that I can't stop anyone from feeding foxes. They are charming creatures, and the feeling that we are helping them by giving them food is very strong (I have heard from one person that foxes seem to bow to him after he gives them food). Therefore, if you must feed foxes, please be aware of the above points. Here are a few suggestions, in addition:

  • Feed them from a distance. Either leave food out for them or throw it from a porch.

  • Don't feed them regularly. Chances are they won't come around regularly anyway, but it's best if they don't get used to having food in the same place all the time.

  • Make sure you feed them the right foods. In general, the best things to feed them are things they could find in nature, for example:
    - Raw meat (cooked is okay).
    - Fresh fruit or berries.
    - Vegetables.
    - Eggs.
    - Earthworms (foxes eat earthworms and other insects, sometimes as a large part of their diet).

  • Things you should NOT feed them are:
    - Chocolate: this tasty treat for humans is poisonous to canids. They can't digest it. It can make them very sick and even kill them (though if you have been feeding chocolate to foxes, don't feel guilty. I've heard stories of dogs and foxes that could eat chocolate quite happily. But you can't tell until you feed it to them.).
    - Highly processed foods like candy, potato chips, and other snacks. - Dry pet food.

    If foxes frequent your land, you should enjoy their presence and disturb them as little as possible. If you do choose to leave food for them, I hope you'll keep these things in your mind when you do, so your choice is an informed one.

    A Note on Fox Hunting in Gledhow Valley Woods

    Occasionally our local Gledhow Valley Woods foxes have been hunted by men with dogs, snares, or guns. If you ever see anybody hunting wild animals in the woods by these or any other means, it is worth reporting to the police because Gledhow Woods, and other areas of Leeds City Council land, are protected by a bylaw that makes it an offence to kill any wild animals (yes, that does include squirrels!) and you can get help.

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