Foxes in Residence
June 26, 2009 7:40 AM   Subscribe

FoxFilter: Should I let the fox(s) living under our front porch stay, or get 'em evicted?

We have a fox or two living under our suburban front porch. It's a cement slab porch, under which a den has been dug. On one hand, the foxes are "cute" (as Mrs. Corrocio and Kid Corrocio say), and interesting to watch when they come out. On the other hand, they are wild animals, I suspect my dogs picked up fleas from them, and there's an occasional strong smell. And, they may eat the neighbors cat. On the third hand, I'd rather not spend the dough for professional removal, and would probably try to get them out myself. The university cooperative extension folks told me it's OK to leave 'em, "if you're tolerant". But then again... fleas, smells, rabies (!?). Thoughts on this dilemma?
posted by ecorrocio to Home & Garden (20 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I would be more worried about the inconvenience (smell, etc.) than I would danger. I wouldn't worry about the cats, which are pretty wise to foxes. Your neighbors rabbits, chickens, and chipmunks, however, should truly fear for their lives. Are your dogs interested in them? A wild fox (or even groundhog) can seriously injure an average suburban dog with a hunting instinct but no experience. If the dogs aren't interested, that won't be a problem. Rabies probably aren't really an issue unless you are in a quarantine area, but I would be alarmed if these foxes started appearing tame, not just because of a fear of rabies. As far as fleas, your dogs can get as many fleas from the squirrels as they can from a fox.
posted by mrmojoflying at 7:50 AM on June 26, 2009

They might be protected. A friend of ours who does live in the city has bobcats and legally cannot do anything about them (unless they have rabies or attack - comforting right). Call a animal rescue place and see if they can shed any light.
posted by doorsfan at 7:51 AM on June 26, 2009

They will general eat rats and mice and other things you don't want in your house.

They might eat the neighbor's cat, but if you chase them off, they'll probably relocate nearby and eat the neighbor's cat anyway. IMO, not your responsibility.

Have there been reports of rabies in your area?
posted by musofire at 7:51 AM on June 26, 2009

I did some research on the fox/cat issue, back when a den of four foxes was about fifty feet off from me. Your cat is probably not in too much danger.

In terms of experience, I had the rare treat of watching a cat, when a fox wandered into her area, do this fantastic move where she charged, turned, and leapt sideways, flipping herself off of the fox's body. This had the presumably intended effect of knocking the fox, ass over teakettle, down a nice flight of stairs, thump-thump-yelp-thump-yelp.

I did not know that cats, especially mild, stocky, unenergetic cats, could do this. The fox never returned.
posted by adipocere at 8:01 AM on June 26, 2009 [16 favorites]

Check for rabies. If they have it they are a threat to everything around them. I would also call your county's extension office to see if they could help you out at all. Maybe contact the game warden? I doubt anyone can come up with a quick and easy fix to get rid of your fox problem.
posted by Mastercheddaar at 8:02 AM on June 26, 2009

What do you mean, "check for rabies?" Unless there's a new test for this other than the brain tissue (direct fluorescent antibody) one, this means you're suggesting to trap and kill them?
posted by HopperFan at 8:09 AM on June 26, 2009

I used to work at a wildlife rescue where we had a fox. It was pretty much the coolest animal I've interacted with- imagine a smart cat that actually is interested in you and wants to interact with you. However, it made me understand that foci (which should DEFINITELY be the plural of fox) make terrible pets- they spray really stinky pee to mark their territory and have a loud, crazy-sounding yowl. Not saying you're thinking about taming this thing, but I'm not sure that those are qualities of an animal I'd want anywhere near my living space. If you figured out how many there were, you could close off the den (cement?) when they're gone.

The bites from rabies that I've heard of happened when the animal's aggression centers in its brain have been pumped up and the inhibition centers have been shut down (from what I remember about rabies, IANAD). So in that case, you would know if it had rabies, because it would probably be in the middle of trying to kill you. I really doubt it would kill a cat or try to bite you unless it was in end-stage rabies.
posted by emilyd22222 at 8:11 AM on June 26, 2009 [2 favorites]

I would think that you could occasionally hit the den with flea powder. That won't get them all, but it will control them a bit.
posted by Flood at 8:17 AM on June 26, 2009

Fox dens stink! Not only do they spray, but they tend to bring their food home with them, and leave the bones and leftovers outside the den. They're much better viewed from a distance!
posted by The Light Fantastic at 8:23 AM on June 26, 2009

The foxes will most likely move out as soon as any young are raised. But, they probably will come back next year to reuse the den, so like Emilyd22222 said you should close off the opening once they leave if you don't want them to return. My family has some recurring fox-rearing-young in an irrigation pipe each year, but they live in a rural area on 5 acres so it's a little different and easier to tolerate.

On the other hand, fox are great to have around to keep pests down like mice and other rodents. So if it was me, I'd probably let them hang out for this year, since I love having beneficial animals like that around my house. Plus, this sort of situation is great to teach your kid(s) about wildlife respect, and it's definitely better entertainment than the television.

Besides the smell you mention, and the odd howl from them, one of the most jarring things to me is the sound of fox breeding. The first time I heard it I went wandering down my street because I thought a child was being abused - it was an awful sound. You're probalby past this point if the fox are already in the den...but it's a crazy sound.
posted by JibberJabber at 8:24 AM on June 26, 2009 [2 favorites]

And, they may eat the neighbors cat.

Well, this won't happen. Most cats can probably handle a fox (which don't have claws), and both species are more or less aware of this imbalance of power. Also, there are basically no reported cases of a fox killing a cat, as far as I could tell (when researching this for similar reasons).
posted by advil at 8:24 AM on June 26, 2009

Response by poster: This morning, the fox had nabbed a neighbor's newspaper, and was taking pages down into the den - either to read, or use as comfy bedding. Again, interesting to watch, beautiful animal... but, what the hell's going on under my porch!
posted by ecorrocio at 8:29 AM on June 26, 2009 [2 favorites]

Fleas are really annoying and potentially dangerous disease carriers. You either need to get rid of the foxes, or you need to figure out how to keep them flea-proof along with your dog. I kind of doubt that you'll be able to get a flea collar on them.
posted by Citrus at 8:36 AM on June 26, 2009

what the hell's going on under my porch!

They're raising baby foxes, in all likelihood. It is that time of year (in the northern hemisphere).

If you really want them out, call animal control. Do not try to remove them yourself. Wild animals - even small ones, like foxes - are much stronger and faster than most humans expect.

But I'd say leave them be, at least until the kits are raised. Get yourself a camera and start taking pictures, because fox kits are entirely adorable. Post them on flickr and you will have instant fans. Once the kits are out, you can decide whether to evict the adults or not. They eat small rodents, snakes, and insects (like grasshoppers), and are pretty beneficial. And they won't eat anybody's cat, unless the cat is very old, very young, or infirm. Cats can totally hold their own against a fox.

As for fleas - put Advantage on your dog.
posted by rtha at 9:00 AM on June 26, 2009 [2 favorites]

This morning, the fox had nabbed a neighbor's newspaper

Obviously looking for a new place in case you choose to evict them.

Seriously though, I've never heard of a fox killing a cat before and would generally lay odds on a cat winning if there ever was a confrontation.
posted by JaredSeth at 9:53 AM on June 26, 2009

My dad has a fox living under his back porch. It probably has a little fox family under there, now that I think of it, because when my husband went out into the garden the other day, the fox yelled at him. They have really odd-sounding vocalizations if you're not used to them.

Anyway, at my dad's house, the fox is probably keeping the mice away, his neighbor's cat seems to get along fine with the fox, the deer still come up into the yard and munch on the grass, and all is right with the world. Put Advantage on your dog, wait till the foxes leave after raising their babies, and seal up the entrance if you don't want them back. I definitely think they have kits under there if they're stealing newspapers.
posted by bedhead at 10:02 AM on June 26, 2009

I don't know where you live; however, wildlife and suburbia do not mix. If you are in a rural environment, even just relocating them a distance away would be preferable. While Mr. and Mrs. Fox may view your porch as a safe haven, sooner or later, something bad will happen - less likely to you and more likely to them. They are cute, but they are wild animals and suburbia - one way or another will kill them.

Today's Newspaper could be tomorrow's sip of antifreeze from your garage. It could be a great home for them, until Mrs. Fox gets pregnant, and Mr. and Mrs. Fox get aggressive to protect their young (rare with foxes, they're pretty skiddish from my experience in a rural setting). Heck, even if they don't get aggressive, its only a matter of time until a baby wanders into the road to sun themselves. Babyproofing the inside of a house is tough, babyproofing the fox den underneath your back porch is a bit of insanity.

Not to mention, while urban integration may be all the rage for the socio-economic concious, it is not a viable option for wildlife. They are wild - learning to adapt to your environment will strip them of necessary skills for the wild.

Animal control may seem like an unfair expense, but would you rather them dig out the back porch to remove a dead fox carcass should one die under there? Would you rather an animal gets too wild to live under your porch and you have to have it removed anyway - or killed? Would you rather that you find out that your encroachment into their habitat leads to their death? Woud you rather wonder if they might have been better off in the wild should anything happen to them? They're wild, you are not. Your interest in seeing the cute cudly foxes isn't thinking about what is best for them.
posted by Nanukthedog at 10:23 AM on June 26, 2009

Wild animals die in the wild, too. There is almost nothing an individual homeowner can do about wild animal encroachment; our expansion has limited their territory, and in return, they're adapting to ours and often surviving and even thriving. I've got possums living under my deck, and I live in San Francisco - and not out by Golden Gate Park, but in the Mission. There are coyotes on Bernal Hill, just south of me. Peregrines nest on the top of the PG&E building downtown (and on top of city hall in San Jose!), and I see redtails nearly every day as they hunt and perch on the hospital half a block from my house. We've got bats. I even saw an owl once.

Is it ideal? Is it even good? It's not ideal, but it is what it is. I wouldn't blame ecorrocio if they decided to evict the foxes at all (as long as you do it in a way that's safest for you and the foxes!). But the idea that we've got all these wild things living amongst us as some sort of trendy look-how-cool-and-enviro-I-am statement is absurd. Unless I want to wall off my house and cover everything in concrete, I can't tell them what to do or where to move.
posted by rtha at 10:53 AM on June 26, 2009 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Thanks for the interesting input folks. Tonight, the fox is out in the front yard pouncing on insects. Amazing really. We'll leave them be for the time being, until smell or something other changes our minds.

....wildlife and suburbia do not mix... Well, more than ever, they do. We've got bunnies, raccoons, skunks around here, and our area has had significant problems with coyotes - killing dogs and threatening people. Our neighboring city is shooting them. So... by comparison, these foxes seem OK. Glad I don't have coyotes (or a skunk) under the porch.
posted by ecorrocio at 8:49 PM on June 26, 2009

Depending on how much burrowing is going on, your cement floor might crack/sink in. I'd try to relocate them and fill in that hole they've dug.
posted by wongcorgi at 12:15 AM on June 27, 2009

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