Township residents have recently been calling to report fox sightings in Montclair and surrounding areas. Although we can appreciate the natural beauty of wildlife in our community, many residents are not used to seeing these animals and may fear them. The NJ Department of Environmental Protection, Fish and Wildlife, provides information so that we may understand these beautiful creatures better, and know what precautions to take so that we can protect our pets and family.
Below is some important information pertaining to foxes sighted in residential areas:
Problems associated with foxes include preying on domestic animals, perceptions of danger to humans, and their potential to carry disease organisms. Foxes will prey on small livestock and small animals such as birds, rodents, and rabbits, but generally do not bother larger mammals. They often hunt at night, carrying their prey to a secluded area or to their den where it is eaten by the adults and young.
Many of the methods used to protect livestock (coops, fencing) can also be used to protect pets. Pets are often easier to protect because they can be kept indoors at night and can be supervised while outdoors by their owners. Human presence is often a deterrent to foxes. Foxes that travel into residential yards should be harassed or scared with loud noises to prevent them from becoming habituated. During the spring, disturbing a den site physically or with unnatural odors such as moth balls, may prompt foxes to move to an attractive den which may be farther from yards and houses.
Foxes, especially red foxes, commonly live in close association with human residences and communities. They frequently inhabit yards, parks, and golf courses, especially areas that adjoin suitable, undeveloped habitat. Healthy foxes pose virtually no danger to humans. Foxes can grow accustomed to human activity but are seldom aggressive toward people. Expanding housing development, particularly in historically rural areas, increases the chances of interactions between humans and foxes, as well as other wildlife.
Many homeowners do not realize that their lawn may be a more attractive habitat to foxes than surrounding mature forest. Eliminating healthy foxes is not warranted based solely on human safety concerns. People uncomfortable with the presence of foxes should remove attractants, exclude foxes with fencing and employ scaring techniques. Potential food sources, such as pet food, meat scraps on compost piles, and fruit below fruit trees should be eliminated. Garbage containers should be kept tightly covered. In many cases, homeowners’ perceptions of problems are unfounded and in some cases, the mere presence of a fox is perceived as a problem.Foxes can carry the organisms responsible for several contagious diseases such as mange, distemper and rabies. Animals that appear sick or that are acting abnormally should be avoided. The following symptoms may indicate the presence of rabies or other neurological diseases in mammals: unprovoked aggression, impaired movement, paralysis or lack of coordination, unusually friendly behavior and disorientation. Please contact the Montclair Township Animal Shelter (973-744-8600) or the Montclair Police Department (if calling after business hours of 8:30 – 4:30, 973-744-1234), if you see a fox that appears to have the above symptoms. For further information, or if assistance is needed with a diseased animal, you may also contact the Division of Fish and Wildlife's Wildlife Control Unit or the DEP Hotline 1-877-WARN-DEP.