As the weather warms and fox kits come out of their dens, run-ins with people often become inevitable, but trying to get in close to feed them or snap a photo could come with serious consequences.
Though they may appear cute and cuddly, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources is reminding residents that feeding any wildlife, in particular foxes, is illegal and harmful.
“When members of the public harass or feed wildlife, they put themselves and others at the risk of bodily harm and disease,” stated Meaghan Wohlberg, communications officer for ENR, in an email.
“Habituating wildlife to human interaction, including human food, increases the public safety risk to other people and also poses a danger to the animal,” she stated. “Feeding foxes or other wildlife most often ends in the animal being killed, either from the food itself or because the animal becomes a threat to public safety and must be put down.”
In the City of Yellowknife, feeding or harassing wildlife carries a maximum fine of $10,000, she stated.
On June 26, ENR asked for the public assistance to put an end to feeding wild foxes near the Arnica Inn on Franklin Avenue.
“The foxes in the Twin Pine Hill area have become habituated to humans, which has created a public safety concern for residents and students in the area,” stated the ENR Facebook post.
The post stated ENR was looking into to relocating the kits once they reach a safe age.
In a June 20 telephone interview, Dean Cluff, a biologist with the territorial government, said foxes can pose a danger to people and pets.
“They are small but they can be aggressive,” he said. “They can be a threat to something like a chihuahua or another kind of small dog.”
They can also carry rabies, a potentially fatal virus that affects mammals, including humans, and is most commonly spread by wild animals like raccoons, skunks, foxes and bats.
ENR has been placing warning signs around town to remind people to keep their distance.
Rhonda Kennedy, a member of the NWT Species Facebook group, posted a photo of one of the warning signs on June 14.
“I was happy to see this sign today, but also quite bothered that it even needs to be there. I hope people pay heed,” she stated.
Andrea Moraes followed with the comment: “Two kits died there this week from human interaction. If the signage stops the feeding, fox families will have a chance to survive.”
The location of the sign will be withheld by Yellowknifer to prevent further interactions with wildlife.
If foxes are found on public or private property, Wohlberg says the first step should always be to call ENR.
“ENR will assess the situation on a case by case basis to determine if the wildlife can be monitored or if the animals need to be removed for the safety of the public and the wildlife,” stated Wohlberg.
If a den is found on private property, ENR will asses the situation and advise on the best course of action.
“Foxes can be removed, although ENR does not encourage the relocation of fox kits when they are young,” stated Wohlberg. “ENR will work with the property owner and try to relocate the foxes when there is the highest chance of survival for the animals.”
Specific numbers on fox interactions are not available, but Wohlberg says the majority of reported problems with wildlife in the city involve foxes.
If you see wildlife in distress, please contact the North Slave wildlife emergency line at 867-873-7181.