Shocked would be an understatement when describing my wife after receiving a text from a neighbor here in Owings Mills; it seems that this resident of a development near Irvine Nature Center had seen two kits (young fox) in her yard and had started feeding them regularly. It is not uncommon to see fox in this area and they can be heard frequently at night, particularly during the spring. I have seen many on my small farm just north of here, some of whom have made quick work of my chickens!
According to the neighbor, the kits had become “tame” and were “very cute” when they approached her to eat. One day recently, however, only one of the pair posted for their handout. A day later the kit was found dead. The neighbor contacted my wife since she is a veterinarian and asked if there was any way to find out what had killed the young fox. My wife responded by cautioning the neighbor not only about feeding wild animals but also about the dangers of handling dead ones.
Specifically, by feeding wild animals such as fox, we habituate them to our food and our environment. They grow accustomed to the food and being around people and this can endanger both the animal and the people. The animal, particularly a young one, will no longer forage for their food and may starve when the person ceases to feed it. People who may come in contact with a habituated animal are at a greater risk of attack, and wild animals such as fox carry a multitude of communicable diseases including rabies, scabies, and mange. Furthermore, the risk of catching something from a wild animal does not diminish when it dies. In fact, a dead animal can be even more dangerous in terms of communicable diseases.
As a parent of small children, I am particularly sensitive to this issue. We must be certain to understand that just because we find an animal to be cute and tame, it does not mean that the animal will behave that way when encountering someone else, particularly a small child who may not know better. Take this opportunity to remind friends and neighbors to keep wild animals wild and keep ourselves safe from any avoidable harm.
Remember, part of the Leave No Trace ethic to which we abide here at Irvine includes respect of wildlife – even that wildlife we find in our backyards.
For more insight, please check out the link below: