It’s Fox Kit Season: Know What to Do to Keep Them Safe!
It’s fox kit season!
Fox kits are starting to emerge from their dens; I just saw my first ones a couple days ago. For the first four or so weeks of their lives, they’ve been snuggled up with mom in a sheltered place, nursing, while the father hunts and brings food to her. After a month or so the kits begin to come out from their safe havens, to explore the world, and to try other foods, typically rodents, rabbits, and woodchucks.
Their consumption of mice is particularly helpful to us in places like upstate New York where Lyme is so prevalent, as ticks mainly pick up Lyme pathogens from mice (this is also why it’s helpful to have coyotes around, as they are excellent mousers too!).
Foxes tend to den close to people because it keeps them safer from coyotes. They will sometimes den under sheds or barns. If you have foxes living on your property, keep in mind it will only be for a couple months. A few weeks after they emerge, they will likely move to a new den, and then disperse by end of summer.
Both parents take care of the kits. One is often off hunting while the other stays with the young. You will see them more during the day than usual because they are so busy trying to feed as many as 6 or 8 kits. Many people mistakenly assume that if they see a fox during the day, it must be rabid. Foxes do get rabies, but it’s rare.
Foxes don’t hurt people. They may watch your pets with concern, bark at them and even chase your cat back into your yard if it goes near the den. They are just trying to protect their young.
It’s best to keep them wary of humans, and not ever feed them. Once they come to associate humans with food, they may get aggressive seeking handouts, and choose the wrong person to approach. I’ve heard too many stories like this that ended sadly for the foxes. “A fed fox is a dead fox” is a truism.
I have many good friends who own chickens who aren’t fond of foxes because they do like to eat chicken (as does every other wild predator of land and sky). It’s definitely a time of year to be more vigilant about your chickens. But please don’t hate foxes for this reason! They are simply trying to survive too, and raise their young.
Please don’t use rat poison anywhere on your property as the kits or parents might ingest it either directly, or by eating a rodent that has ingested it. Rat poison is also lethal for raptors (it ironically kills the creatures that we most need around to control rodents!)
Also consider driving just a little more slowly around areas where you have seen foxes or know there to be dens. So many fox kits are killed by cars every year.
Share this info with others you think might be interested. Thank you for caring about foxes!
Photo: Thank you Melissa Groo!