The fox is a highly intelligent animal. It will eat just about anything, including garbage, birdseed, fallen fruit, and even small pets. This has put the fox high on the list of bothersome pests which many homeowners must deal with.
There are a few things that homeowners can do to rid their property of these clever, yet irritating, predators. There are sprays to repel them, noisemakers and lights to frighten them, and some simple changes will make backyards less appealing to foxes.
This article explains how to implement these safe and affordable methods to rid yards and sheds of foxes. It also offers tips on how to safeguard against their return. Making backyards less hospitable to these opportunistic animals is the first step.
Foxes are beautiful animals, and clever. So clever, in fact, that they are often associated with cunning and trickery. When someone says that another person is “crazy like a fox,” it implies there’s a method to that person’s madness–they’re not really mad at all, just smart.
Foxes are often portrayed as villains in storybooks and movies. If you’ve ever had to keep them from eating your chickens, then you will relate to this. Foxes are opportunistic and quick animals that have big appetites and like to dine from wide ranging menus. They are worthy adversaries for homeowners and farmers.
The most common types of species found in North America are the red fox and the gray fox. The adult male fox is commonly called a dog or tod, the female a vixen, and their offspring are kits. A group of foxes is a skulk. Foxes give birth about once a year. It’s offspring are not called puppies, they’re kits and there are typically about a half dozen kits in the average litter.
While foxes are smaller than wolves and coyotes, red foxes are bigger than gray foxes. They typically weigh between seven and fifteen points and measure about three feet, nose to tail.
Foxes may dig their own dens, but they have no problem letting another animal do their work for them. They are happy to occupy the dens of woodchucks and badgers. They will also happily dig out a comfy spot underneath porches, sheds, garages, and other outbuildings.
Foxes do not attack humans and pose no danger to them unless they have rabies. They won’t mess with household pets, unless they are smaller than themselves, like kittens, puppies or small dogs. They tend to ignore humans altogether, but it’s hard for humans to ignore foxes once they’ve moved onto their property.
Foxes will eat just about anything. They are notorious for this. They will not only eat chickens (and their eggs), but bigger prey like lambs, turkeys, even kittens and puppies or small dogs. They may look like domesticated dogs themselves, but make no mistake, they are wild animals.
Foxes are omnivores. They will eat meat when they can. They will also happily munch on insects and have no problem with easier pickings like garbage, birdseed, compost, or fallen fruit.
Another reason foxes are such annoying pests is their smell. Foxes like to mark their territory by defecating and urinating all around it. The odor is intense as anyone who has ever had a family of foxes living in their shed can tell you. Foxes can also carry diseases, such as mange and rabies, and they almost certainly carry ticks. Foxes are the perfect storm as far as backyard pests go.
Foxes are mostly associated with wooded rural areas and are a pain in the neck for farmers. They are in no way limited to the county, however, and city fox populations are common and on the rise.
Moving to the City
Foxes have become increasingly urbanized in recent years. The country fox’s move to the big city is likely due to several factors. For one, an increase in the coyote population has made competition for food more difficult for foxes. Coyotes have even been known to put their smaller canine cousins on their own menus when motivated by hunger.
They are also quite adaptable to city life. They move quite easily through urban landscapes. Since they are not fussy about their diet, there is plenty of food to be scavenged from the alleys behind restaurants, grocery stores, and homes.
How to Get Rid of a Fox in the Yard
If your property is attracting foxes, this means that your yard is attractive to them. This can be remedied, but it does take a bit of work. The first order of business is to stop making your yard such an appealing place for foxes to set up house. Removing all of the comfy places they can hide and sleep the day away is essential. If you don’t make any changes, then even if you are successful in scaring one fox away, the next one will move right in.
Clean up your yard
If your yard has an abundance of shrubs, bushes, stacked firewood, old car parts, or any other piles of debris, remove them. These make excellent hiding spots for these animals. Trim back or cut down bushes that provide them a safe haven. When given the opportunity, a fox will set up a nice, cozy den in areas like these.
No more free lunch
No more free lunches! Make sure garbage is put into trash cans with secure, tight-fitting lids. Be diligent about picking up any debris that may collect around them. Setting out pet food for a dog or the neighborhood cat will also entice foxes, and many more scavengers as well. Bird feeders should be removed or very well maintained so that spilled seeds aren’t littering the ground underneath them. If you are a home composter, stop putting meat and egg shells on your compost pile. This is too good for a fox, and other animals, to pass up.
Any items that collect water after a rain should be removed as well. This could be an old tire, bird baths, or buckets.
Repel and Deter
There are some store bought items you can use to deter and repel foxes. Electronic devices that send out ultrasonic noises are effective for the most part. The device is activated by movement and when triggered emits different noises to scare off animals. The noises will alternate so that foxes do not grow accustomed to them. The drawback to noisemakers is that foxes aren’t the only animals who will find these devices annoying. You, your neighbors, as well the neighborhood pets will also be forced to listen to it. If you live in a rural area, this may not be an issue, but for city dwellers motion detecting lights may be a better option. They may not work in the long term as foxes will grow accustomed to them, but they are good for the general security of the property.
Ammonia has been used as a fox repellent for years. It has a smell that is similar to urine, so it may trick foxes into thinking your yard has been spoken for by another animal. There are a number of fox repellents available at hardware and home improvement stores. Some of these items contain ammonia as well. Some spray repellents are intended for use on food sources to make them unappealing to foxes who don’t like onions, hot peppers, or garlic.
How to Get Rid of a Fox Under a Shed
Any hungry fox will invade your yard if food is available, but a vixen will set up her den to give birth if a comfortable spot can be easily dug. Under a shed is such a spot. To get rid of a fox who has made a den under a shed, you should follow the same steps above for keeping them out of your yard, but with some additional steps involved.
Repel or wait
Soaking old rags in ammonia and placing them around the shed may force the mother fox out and keep her away. An easier solution for removal is to do nothing until they leave. Not long after a mother fox has delivered a litter, the kits will follow her out of the den to search for food. If you can wait them out, you can block off access while they’re gone and force them to find a new spot.
It is important to repair any holes in the structure itself. Put up boards, replace old bricks, and fill in any dug out holes with dirt. Once you have successfully rid your shed of foxes, make sure you don’t unknowingly invite them back. This requires vigilance. Don’t fall back into bad habits of letting shrubs and bushes grow out of control. Don’t let debris pile up. Watch what you compost and make sure your garbage can lids are secured and the area around them kept free of scraps of food.
Trapping is an option but it really is not a permanent solution. Removing one fox only allows the next one to move in. Unless you have a plan to keep them out, trapping is more trouble than it’s worth. If you do decide to trap these animals, check with local government agencies to see what the laws are in your area. There may be laws prohibiting trapping within city limits and some fox species may be endangered and protected by federal law.
Please be humane. Foxes are intelligent creatures and they are only trying to survive by taking advantage of the resources available. They may be annoying, but they mean no harm and should be treated humanely. There are pest control companies who specialize in trapping animals, and your city’s department of animal control may also provide this service.
What Foods Attract Foxes?
In terms of backyard feeding, foxes, urban foxes specifically, are attracted by any type of food. This includes birdseed, pet food, fruit, compost piles, and garbage. Live animals like chickens will also attract them to the yard.
How High Can a Fox Jump?
Red foxes can easily jump to the top of a six foot tall fence and gray foxes are not only good jumpers, they are excellent climbers as well. A backyard fence would have to be taller than six feet to keep a fox out. The higher the fence, the more it costs.
Do Foxes Eat Little dogs?
Though foxes tend to get a bad rap as sneaky predators, they’re not especially dangerous to humans or pets. Foxes generally stick to eating things they can easily kill, such as rabbits and small livestock. Dogs, on the other hand, tend to scare away foxes, which is why they’re helpful near a chicken coop. In fact, even the average house cat stands a good chance of scaring away a fox once the claws come out.
Of course, a toy breed like a Chihuahua isn’t quite as menacing as a large and sturdy farm dog. However, it’s a fox’s natural tendency to flee rather than fight. In fact, most foxes will never put up a fight unless it’s defending itself or its den. Otherwise, most foxes will run at the sound of a dog’s furious barking, regardless of its size.
That’s not to say that your small dog won’t be attacked by a fox. When they’re cornered, foxes have been known to get downright vicious and cause serious injuries. This can be a concern for owners of small hunting breeds, like dachshunds and beagles. These dogs were originally bred to hunt foxes and other small animals, so it’s natural that they would go after any unwelcome intruder that enters their yard.
To ensure your small dog’s safety, it’s best to keep it indoors or supervise it the entire time it’s outside. Using an extended leash can help as well, since it will keep your dog from pursuing and cornering a scared fox. You can also try setting up a sturdy structure, like a metal dog run, which will keep it safe from foxes and other potential predators. These are similar to chicken runs and vary greatly in size, so you’ll have no trouble finding one that will give your dog enough room to run around.
Do Foxes Hunt During the Day?
Because foxes are a cautious animals with a tendency to flee, they do much of their hunting under the cover of darkness. On the other hand, foxes find the lure of easy and available food irresistible. In cities and suburban neighborhoods, food can be found everywhere, from garbage cans to dishes of pet food left out in the yard.
As a result, quite a few homeowners have been taken aback by the sight of a fox lurking in their yard. There’s no need to panic if you see one, since foxes will generally run the minute they see a human. The only time a fox will attack is if your try to catch it, or if they’re rabid, which is extremely rare.
In some cases, the fox may actually try to approach you out of curiosity. This kind of behavior has softened the hearts of many homeowners, who have tried to pet the fox or offer it food. However, a fox isn’t the same thing as a stray dog or cat, who are bred to be dependent on humans for food.
When you feed a fox, it will learn to associate people with food, which will diminish its natural hunting instincts. The fox may also start entering other people’s yards in hopes of scoring more food, and you can’t be sure that others are as compassionate as you are. Your neighbors may also have pets in their yard that can end up hurting the fox, or vice versa. Any one of these possibilities will make you a nuisance in your neighborhood, while making things worse for the fox in the long-run.
Will Antifreeze Kill a Fox?
Antifreeze is a highly toxic substance that can kill foxes and any other animals that have the misfortune of ingesting it. Antifreeze contains ethylene glycol, which has been known to kill tens of thousands of domesticated animals every year. Antifreeze can also kill humans, or cause irreversible damage to the kidneys, lungs, brain, and liver.
Since antifreeze tastes sweet, it can be easily hidden in food and drinks. It’s also readily available at auto supply and home improvement stores for under $10 a gallon. Hence, it’s not surprising that people soak pieces of meat in antifreeze and leave it out in the yard as a way to kill foxes.
However, a poison shouldn’t be used just because it’s effective. In fact, using poison as a form of pest control has detrimental consequences for any animal that steps in your yard, like the neighbor’s cat that may have been lured by the irresistible scent of fresh meat.
It should also be mentioned that using antifreeze is cruel. It takes several days for the poison to take full effect, but when it does, it produces agonizing symptoms, including nausea and vomiting, seizures, and loss of consciousness. It’s frankly a horrible way to die, and quite unnecessary when the actual goal is to keep the fox away from your property.
For a humane way to keep foxes away, try noise-making devices, like transistor radios or motion-sensitive alarms. Installing a motion-activated sprinkler can help as well, especially ones that use a combination of motion, spray, and noise. If you want a cheaper alternative, try pet-safe chemical sprays or physical barriers that are used to keep dogs and cats out of your garden.
You can also look into humane animal traps, which are typically sold at home improvement or hunting stores. Keep in mind, however, that it may take several days for the fox to step inside the trap. You’ll also need to place the trap in a concealed area and bait it with pieces of meat or cat food.
Where Do Foxes Sleep?
It’s commonly believed that foxes use their dens for sleeping, but these are actually used by the females for giving birth and raising their cubs. That means the only foxes you’ll typically find sleeping in a den are females and their babies.
As a general rule, foxes sleep just about anywhere, even out in the open if they’re in the wild. During the colder months, they’ll curl up in a ball and cover themselves with their long, bushy tails for warmth. In more urban areas, they’ll look for structures like sheds or porches, especially in bad weather. Female foxes may also use these areas as dens when they’re about to give birth.
Another misconception is that foxes sleep during the day and appear only at night. While foxes do much of their hunting once the sun goes down, it’s not unusual to see them during daylight hours if they’re hungry. There’s no cause for alarm if you do see one, since they’ll most likely run away from you. If they start to approach you out of curiosity, scare them away by shouting and clapping your hands.
Are Gray Foxes Nocturnal?
The most common variety of fox is the red fox, with its distinctive rust-colored coat and dark legs. However, the gray fox is the dominant variety in the West Pacific States, including California, Oregon, Washington, and Alaska. The gray fox was once found widely throughout North and Central America. Unfortunately, deforestation and urban development resulted in the red fox taking over as the dominant species.
Technically, gray foxes are crepuscular, which means they’re most active during twilight, or the hours between dawn and dusk. Nocturnal animals, on the other hand, are active during the night. However, it is possible to spot a gray fox at all hours of the day, especially in cities and towns where food sources are more readily available.
The gray fox has strong, hooked claws that allow it to scramble up trees at lightning speed. In the wild, they can be found resting in hollow trees, stumps, or burrows that were previously dug by woodchucks. Because of their extraordinary climbing ability, the gray fox is also known as the “tree fox” or “cat fox.” This is a particularly useful trait when the gray fox is chased by dogs or coyotes, or when it spots a tasty looking bird.
Do Foxes Eat Chicken Eggs?
Foxes do indeed eat chicken eggs, which are a great source of nutrition for both humans and animals. Both red and gray foxes, along with predators such as raccoons, skunks, and opossums, are experts at snatching chicken eggs from vulnerable or unguarded chicken runs.
Red foxes normally carry the eggs away and eat them in an area where they feel safe. They may also bury the egg underground or hide it in a hollow log, and eat it later. Gray foxes, on the other hand, often hide eggs in tree stumps or hollow tree cavities, where they’re known to sleep during the day.
To eat the egg, the fox takes it in its mouth and crushes it just enough to lick out the contents. The broken pieces of shell are left behind, often with remnants or yolk or egg white. If the fox has managed to kill a chicken on its way to the eggs, you may also find scattered feathers nearby.
Mike Zhang. Founder of FamilyLifeShare