Fox Feeding on LBI Risky for Animal, Humans

May 24, 2017
File Photo by: Ryan Morrill

Local reports of a fox making the rounds in Harvey Cedars are vexing some residents concerned the animal will be hurt or worse as it crosses Long Beach Boulevard in search of food being left by well-meaning individuals.

“People who encounter a fox should, under no circumstances, feed it. They may seem friendly, and have no fear of humans,” Caryn Shinske, public information officer for the state Department of Environmental Protection, said, “but interacting with them reduces their natural fear of humans. These are wild animals. They are not domesticated and shouldn’t be petted, played with or fed.”

The Fish and Wildlife Division of the DEP has not been notified of any problems with foxes on Long Beach Island, she said, adding “if an individual is approached by a fox on the beach they should immediately notify the closest lifeguard. If they are in a park, notify the closest park ranger.”

Humans are a natural deterrent to foxes, which should be scared away from a private or public area by creating loud noises and letting them know they shouldn’t be comfortable in the vicinity, Shinske said.

“Their natural instinct is to hunt,” she said. “They don’t need help from humans.”

Foxes prey at night so domesticated animals should be inside or under the supervision of their human when outside at night, Shinske said. Another way to protect private property is to eliminate any outside food source.

“Foxes are especially clever animals and will climb over or under poorly maintained fences (to get food)," she said, adding that electrical fences have proven a good deterrent to keep foxes out of backyards and other areas. Another natural preventative measure, using unnatural odors such as coyote urine, will also keep foxes at bay, she said.

A healthy fox poses no danger to humans, Shinske said. A fox behaving abnormally could be sick. Foxes carry a multitude of diseases, such as mange, distemper and rabies, Shinske added. A fox appearing sick will exhibit a number of strange behaviors, like unprovoked aggression, impaired movement, lack of coordination and disorientation.

A fox that exhibits friendly behavior toward a human could be sickly or “so conditioned by humans that it will sit and wait to be fed,” she said, noting that’s why it’s important the public doesn’t interact with a fox.

Both the gray fox and the red fox, which are found in the Garden State, are about the size of a small dog, roughly 7 to 15 pounds. What humans consider a skinny fox is actually a fox’s natural weight. The red fox does not have a specific diet and can exist on insects, small animals, plants and fruit. Their diets are supplemented by items that they hunt or find. Red foxes are known to live in close proximity to humans without ever interacting with them.

Shinske urged the public to call the DEP hotline, 877-WARN-DEP, to report a sighting of a sickly fox. Just last fall, the DEP euthanized three sickly foxes found at Island Beach State Park.

— Gina G. Scala

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