Q: I have seen foxes on my property. Is this normal?
A: Red Foxes are very common in the Ottawa area, particularly in suburban communities like Kanata where, formerly natural areas, are undergoing development. At the same time, foxes have adapted very well to living in urban areas. They have had, for many years, den sites along the Ottawa River in Lebreton Flats and even in neighbourhoods around the Civic Hospital given the proximity of the Experimental Farm. Foxes, like other wild mammals, often choose to have their young closer to humans to afford them more protection from predators.
Foxes are extremely tolerant of human development and adapt readily to living in close proximity to humans and traffic.
Q: Where do they den and what are their habits?
A: Dog foxes (males) and vixens (females) are usually monogamous. They breed between mid-January and mid-March through May. The den is often an abandoned woodchuck burrow, a patch of bush or scrub land along a hydro corridor or an excavation under a barn or other structure.
Parenting is shared, with the male fox bringing food for the vixen when the pups are newborn and both adults bringing food for the young once weaned as well as teaching them to hunt when old enough. The young disperse in the autumn.
Foxes are very intelligent and display a highly developed sense of playfulness and curiosity as shown when they steal golf balls off a course or when young foxes vocalize and attempt to socialize with a neighbourhood cat.
Q: Are foxes a risk to people or pets?
A: The answer is no. Foxes appear larger than they actually are given the bushy tail and long slender body. They weigh only between 9 and 15 lbs. or roughly the same size as the average house cat.
Their food consists of mice, voles, rabbits, crickets, grasshoppers and plant material like acorns, berries and apples. Because of their relatively small stomachs, foxes cache a lot of their food under leaves or snow for future meals.
Foxes are seen around our homes during the fall months as that is where they find fallen crab apples and berries or mice that move closer to our homes in the cold weather. This year, mice have been very plentiful so hunting will be good around our properties.
To put the question of risk into perspective, the City of Ottawa receives over 400 reports of dog bites each year. Reports of fox bites – Zero.
Nevertheless, it is important for people to keep their pets indoors at night and under control at other times to prevent potential injury from encounters with either domestic or wild animals. By the same token, pets cause far greater harm to wildlife if allowed to roam free so we hope responsible owners will keep their pets indoors.