Fast fox facts equip neighborhoods to coexist with local wildlife

By Lydia Goerner | Aug 03, 2017
Photo by: Alan D. Wilson Red foxes were the topic at a discussion hosted by the Wareham Department of Natural Resources on Thursday.

Foxes: friends or foes? That is the question the Cape Wildlife Center came to Wareham to answer.

Zak Mertz, executive director of the Cape Wildlife Center, presented at the Wareham Free Library on Thursday with veterinarian Priya Patel and vet technician Howard Goldman.

Mertz said red foxes are more common than gray foxes in this area and these are the only two species of fox living in Massachusetts. The gray foxes are tree climbers and red foxes can be identified by the white tip of their tail and their dark legs.

These omnivorous creatures will eat “whatever they can get their hands on, as survivalists do,” Mertz said, including squirrels, mice, birds, carrion, eggs and insects.

Here are some tips the experts gave on how to manage foxes in your neighborhood.

  1. Remember foxes do not want to eat kids, dogs or cats. But make sure to vaccinate cats and dogs and give them flea and tick treatments.
  2. Summer residents should assess their property for potential fox den areas before they leave for the winter. Foxes like to make holes near sheds and porches.
  3. Mothballs, a mixture of water and vinegar, or bear urine can be used in the yard to deter foxes, but these are not necessary.
    “If you’d like to share your habitat with a fox, that only makes your backyard cooler,” Mertz said.
  4. The most common diseases in foxes are rabies, mange and distemper. Rabies and mange can be transferred to humans and symptoms in foxes include lack of coordination, aggression, paralysis and seizures.
    Of 87 fox rabies submissions in Plymouth County this year, none have come back positive for rabies. Wareham Animal Control Officer Cheryl Gorveatt-Dill said 33,000 baited rabies vaccinations were distributed this spring, which leave foxes vaccinated for rabies when they eat them.
  5. Don’t leave food out overnight for foxes or pets. Doing so can lead to the spread of disease among animal populations.
  6. Keep in mind that federal and state laws prohibit trapping, killing or relocation of a healthy wildlife animal in a residential area. If an animal appears to be sick, call animal control or the Cape Wildlife Center at 508-362-0111.
  7. Admire foxes from a distance. Feeding them “does them a real disservice,” Mertz said, as they can lose some hunting ability and begin to think all humans are friendly.

Paula Caravella, who attended the presentation from Plymouth, said she has three “beautiful” foxes living near her house. She watches the kits learn to hunt near her home.

“Everyone in our neighborhood is very protective of the foxes,” Caravella said. “It’s become a mutual understanding that no one’s trying to hurt anybody.”

Goldman said the main purpose of the presentation was to show that foxes are “not as alarming as people think.”

The Cape Wildlife Center in Barnstable has been open for four months and has already seen 1,200 sick, injured or orphaned wild animals. They provide care to around 235 species, including nine red foxes and three gray foxes so far. For more information, visit

Comments (3)
Posted by: Society for Suppression of Noise | Aug 03, 2017 21:18

Haven't seen the little critter, just his footprints when snow was on the ground.  Any creature that'll eat rabbits, groundhogs, mice, and voles is welcome to hang out at my place.

Posted by: Spherebreaker | Aug 04, 2017 07:44

Fox will eat cat like candy

Posted by: rtb382 | Aug 07, 2017 20:21

We had a fox in the lot next to us but the land was purchased and a house built so we lost our four footed neighbor. He used to sit by my grapevine and eat his fill. I walked right past him when he would hide behind my wall. He didn't spook. I love their trot.

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