Fox family seen on Granite Street

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The red and gray fox, two distinct species, are common in Massachusetts. Both can be found throughout the state, except Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket. Courtesy photo
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Residents concerned with threat to children and pets

Woods Near Granite Street
The area pictured here has been used by children for some time, but recently has become the new home for a family of foxes. Staff Photo/Max Bowen

In recent weeks, residents of Granite Street and the surrounding area have been dealing with some unwelcome neighbors.

A family of foxes have been sighted in the area, in some cases near where children walk. One resident said she saw them along a wooded trail that children use to leave the area. Under state law, however, the animals cannot be moved farther than the edge of the property line, nor can they be destroyed unless determined to be rabid.

“You shouldn’t have to choose between your kids and a fox,” said Martha Hopkins, who lives in the area.

Animal Control Officer Felicia Camara said she has spoken to the residents and told them that the animals were likely displaced by development or deforestation. This particular group of foxes appears to be a parent and their pups, and Camara said they should leave in a few weeks once the pups are older. One caller reported a den of foxes and a week later, said they had left. 

“We are sharing their homes, it was there before us,” she said. “We have to be somewhat tolerant.”

But Granite Street’s homeowners said the animals have been there approximately seven weeks and the impact has been significant. One resident keeps chickens and lost them to the foxes. Others have had to change their schedules walking their pets for fear the animals will be attacked. The animals seem to have no fear of humans, walking into their backyards and up to their doors.

“We have fenced-in yards and we can’t walk our dogs,” said Anne McElvee. 

When it comes to people, Camara said the animals won’t attack. If approached, she said waving one’s hands or making noise is enough to scare them off. Foxes are carnivores, and their diet consists of small animals such as opossums, squirrels, and mice. Small dogs and cats can be at risk, but larger dogs such as German Shepherds have little to worry about. One way to remove them is using a product called Repel All, which irritates the animals’ nose enough that they leave. Wolf urine is another way to deter the animals. Once the foxes leave, she recommends filling the den with rocks so they won’t return. 

“They’re more afraid of us than we are of them,” she said.

Along with calling various town departments, the Granite Street residents have spoken to Mass Wildlife and been told that there is little that can be done. Some are feeling frustrated with the situation.

“This neighborhood has a lot of kids,” said Hopkins. “We don’t want to worry if a fox will come out and get them.”

Tips for what to do about foxes

Foxes can thrive close to humans in suburban and urban areas. They require only a source of food, water, and cover. To make a property less attractive to foxes and avoid having any problems with these small predators, follow these basic practices. 

Don’t feed or pet foxes

Feeding, whether direct or indirect, can cause foxes to act tame, and over time may lead to bold behavior. Foxes that rely on natural food items remain wild and wary of humans. Secure garbage in tough plastic containers with tight-fitting lids and keep in secure buildings when possible. Take out trash the morning that pickup is scheduled, not the previous night. Keep compost in secure, vented containers.

Close off crawl spaces

Foxes will use areas under porches and sheds for resting and raising young. Close these areas off to prevent animals from using them.

Keep bird feeder areas clean

Use feeders designed to keep seed off the ground, as the seed attracts many small mammals that foxes prey upon. Remove feeders if foxes are regularly seen around the yard.

Don’t let foxes intimidate you

Don’t hesitate to scare or threaten foxes with loud noises, bright lights, or water sprayed from a hose.

Cut back brushy edges

These areas provide prime cover for foxes and their prey.

Protect livestock

Keep livestock such as rabbits and chickens in secure enclosures that prevent entry from above and below.

Pet owners

Although free-roaming pets are more likely to be killed by automobiles than wild animals, foxes can view cats as potential food. For the safety of pets, keep them leashed at all times. Additionally, feed pets indoors. Outdoor feeding can attract wild animals. 

-Source: Mass Division of Fisheries and Wildlife