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Feeding wild foxes has dire consequences

Fox cubs are cute, but by giving into the temptation to feed them hamburgers or hot dogs, experts maintain that residents are effecitvely condeming them to death, thanks to increased vehicle traffic and lack of foraging skills. – © Brigitte Werner / Pixabay

By Jaymie White

Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

PORT AUX BASQUES – Concerns have been raised by some residents on social media that individuals are pulling over on the side of the road on Hardy’s Arterial to feed wild foxes that have been spotted roaming in the area.

These instances raise numerous concerns from the danger it poses not just to traffic traveling on the road, but to the risks it will pose to the animals when they become dependent on handouts from people for nourishment. Mayor Brian Button said this is a matter that has been brought to his attention through the Town, and it is something that they have been working to correct.

“We made some public advisories through our media sources, our social media pages and such, asking residents not to do that. I know Wildlife – we’ve been in contact with Wildlife – and I know they came out to try to do some trapping and try to return these animals back to their own domain, but they are still around, and we still have residents trying to feed them.”

Button said he understands the concerns of residents, wanting to make sure the animals don’t go hungry, but feeding them is just doing more harm than good.

“Really, technically, we are being a bad guy because we’re taming down these animals. Their life, they are meant to hunt for their food, and right now we are keeping them in residential areas where we are feeding them, and they are losing that sense. They’re becoming dependent on the residents feeding them as opposed to getting it themselves. It’s a concern and we are trying to convince residents to not do that. We know you mean well, but it is a wild animal and we’ve got to refrain from doing that.”

It’s only been in the last couple of years that foxes have been spotted roaming in town, however, Button said they have been in the region for quite some time.

“Last couple of years, we may not have seen them much in the Port aux Basques area. Last year they may have been in one area in Port aux Basques. They’ve been in the region, around Cape Ray as well, and now we have them over in the Hardy’s Arterial area, hanging out around Grand Bay, coming around residents’ homes, stuff like that, but we’re keeping them at bay because they are losing their instincts.”

In fact, foxes have been encroaching further into residential areas thanks to all of the free food. In Cape Ray a family was being fed by locals in September 2020 despite pleas from Wildlife officials not to do so. And in May 2021 the department set out traps to relocate a family of foxes that had been denning at the start of Route 470, which runs from Port aux Basques to Rose Blanche. Locals were feeding those foxes as well. That location was particularly dangerous to the foxes, as the ferry traffic departs Marine Atlantic for the Trans Canada Highway.

Button said that in order for Wildlife officials to be able to do their job, people do need to stop feeding them.

“We hear stories about people each evening, making sure they’ve got leftovers with them for the foxes. I know everybody means well, but it’s not doing any justice to them.”

In response to email inquiries, the Department of Fisheries, Forestry, and Agriculture said the following about individuals feeding wildlife:

“The practice of feeding wildlife is strongly discouraged. Predatory species such as foxes, lynx, coyotes, wolves or black bears can be dangerous to humans and pets and may transmit diseases if a bite occurs. Feeding wildlife is particularly dangerous along highways.

“Animals can become habituated or accustomed to humans if a source of food or garbage is readily available. As their fear of humans decreases, habituated wild animals take more chances to access food. These animals are unpredictable and may become aggressive when approached.

“If wild animals are near your home, cabin or campsite:

• Do not feed wild animals, even if you think an animal appears to be hungry.

• Do not approach a wild animal to take a photograph.

• Do not leave food, pet food, bottles, pop cans or food containers outdoors.

• Store food, coolers, camp stoves, pots and pans in your shed, cabin or vehicle.

• Keep garbage inside a shed or garage until just before pick-up.

• Harvest fruit from fruit trees when ripe.

• Keep dairy products and meat out of compost piles.

• Clean barbecue grills after use to minimize odor and the risk of attracting wildlife.

“Conservation officers will only attempt to handle, trap and relocate wildlife if there is a public safety concern or if circumstances warrant an animal’s removal. When habituated animals pose a threat to human safety, they may have to be euthanized, through no fault of their own.

“Anyone encountering an aggressive wild animal is asked to report it to Forest Management Offices located throughout the province.”

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