How would you react to foxes with no fear of people?

My English Shepherd chases the foxes and coyotes out of the pasture. He’s seventy pounds and nobody’s going to mess with him. I praise him for it – they’re after the hens.

If it’s porkies or skunks, I call him back. I’ve done that rodeo enough times already.

We had small furry things in our old neighborhood that would sometimes act erratically such as not moving away from people, esp. people with dogs.

Animal control would be called and they could tell they were rabid.

So I’m on the extreme caution side.

I love the avatar/post combo.

They determine if they are rabid by removing the brain and making slides. It’s impossible to look at a raccoon, for example, and differentiate between rabies virus and distemper virus.

After exposure the virus travels from the site of inoculation, along nerve axons, to the central nervous system. Depending on exactly which parts of the brain are affected, the animal may be merely depressed, or “furious”.

I suspect that fox of knowing what a leash is.

Or at least, the fox knows from experience that for whatever reason, a dog will make a lot of noise but won’t chase him.

I’ve read stories of farmers trying to keep the deer out of their apple trees with dogs, who found that the deer worked out exactly how far the dogs could go, and would eat the trees up to just barely outside that limit.

Opossums are the only marsupial native to North America, so they are a pretty distant relative to any other mammal you are likely to encounter here. Rabies might not be particularly adapted to infecting them.

Besides rabies, foxes and raccoons can both carry canine distemper, which also causes odd behavior (confusion, trembling, etc.) and may be more common than rabies. Definitely keep your dog away from foxes or raccoons that act weird.

Edit: Looks like skunks can also carry canine distemper.

It is not only deer that can figure that out. And did the deer then slap the dogs sily while saying, “Ah - shaddup!” :wink:

It’s still not bad advice since a racoon can fuck up even a big dog, but distemper is included in the standard annual shot that most dogs receive (along with rabies). For me, it’s less disease and more the possibility that my babies will be seriously hurt. They’re used to chasing rabbits and squirrels which don’t tend to fight back much (General Woundwort not being native to the area).

I remember years back when a neighbor’s HUGE shepherd mixed it up with a boar raccoon. Yeah, I guess you would say the shepherd won the fight, but it resulted in an expensive vet visit and multiple sutures.

My dog likely outweighs the fox by 2-3 times. But I wouldn’t pit a couch potato against a creature that regularly kills for food and contests with others for dominance (presumably other than barking from the safety of his home/yard/leash).

I live in a somewhat rural, mostly suburban town north of Boston, on a side street near a restaurant. Many years ago a fox raised a litter of kits under a shed across the street from the restaurant. I never saw mama but did see the kits close to the shed a couple of times.

Never seen any foxes there since, and I believe we’ve had an influx of coyotes that might have taken over the general habitat. The coyotes don’t seem to be intimidated by humans.

This morning, one of the foxes has been hanging out in the front yard of the neighbor diagonally across the street. I work in a chair in my front room such that that is right in my peripheral vision. It just seems so weird to see a fox lazing about on the lawn, rolling around to rub it’s back as a dog does, sitting up alertly to watch the mailman walk by… Then every once in a while it slips behind the home’s bushes, before coming out again.

I can still clearly remember the only 2 times I saw foxes in my first 30 or so years. Seems so weird now to see them almost daily.

That’s about how often I’ve seen foxes here, and each sighting has been brief as the animal runs by.

Quite a few years ago, I was driving from here to a nearby town along a two-lane rural road. As I approached a house set back from the road whose lawn sloped down the the road, I saw, curled up asleep on that mowed lawn, in full sight of both the house and the road, in the middle of the afternoon on a nice day, what my rational mind at first took to be a dog, probably one who lived in that house.

As I started to pass the house the back of my head woke up and said Wait a minute. That’s a fox!

I stopped the car and took a better look. (Low traffic road, good line of sight.) Yup, a fox. It was in a comfortable sleeping position; but had it maybe been hit by a car and only made it that far off the road? I rolled down the window and said to the fox, in a somewhat idiotic fashion, “Are you all right?”

At which point the fox woke up, realized that what was going on wasn’t a car going by on the road but a car that had stopped and contained a human who was looking right at it, and indicated that it was indeed all right by jumping up and running very rapidly off into the nearby woods. I felt bad for having disturbed a nice nap.

I have never before or since seen a fox asleep out in the open like that. But now, whenever I go past that house, I think of it as Fox On The Lawn House.

That is the catch, I think. To anthropomorphize slightly, foxes (raccoons, etc.) “know” the calculus is different. If a dog picks a fight with them, and the dog gets their paw hurt, the dog goes to the vet and has to wear the Cone of Shame for a few weeks. If a fox picks a fight with a dog, and the fox gets its paw hurt, that fox is now crippled.

Urban predators have a vested interest in avoiding both people and their pets and generally do not care about them, even if they are outwardly acculturated. City-dwelling foxes do benefit from trash that’s been left out, but that seems to be about it. And even coyotes, who are:

  1. Acculturated enough to be out in the daytime using the crosswalks in San Francisco and stopping by Quiznos in Chicago,
  2. Bigger than foxes, and
  3. Prime Nextdoor “I saw an animal in my pristine subdivision oh god what do I do :(” fodder

want to avoid you and your pet. Scat studies have consistently shown that domesticated animals make up at most a low single-digit part of their diet—a high outlier of ~6.7% in a Schaumburg population—and that’s entirely cats, presumably feral. The most common antagonistic reaction is when dogs will, inadvertently or deliberately, challenge or start fights with the coyotes and back them into a corner.

So, like. Give foxes a wide berth, keep your dogs on a leash, and everyone will stay happy. I saw a fox when I was out walking late in Berlin a couple nights ago; I was worried that I’d spooked them, but they came trotting up past me and then slipped under a fence into a construction site. Presumably if I’d made a sudden movement they might’ve run off, but as it was they didn’t seem to see me as a threat or care about my presence.

Or maybe they just didn’t like my shoes.


They’ve learned they don’t need to avoid being seen because both humans and leashed pets are vanishingly unlikely to attack. They just need to be wary enough and keep enough distance that they’re confident the distance is enough of a head start to outrun any unexpected charge.

If humans started packing pistols and shooting them on sight from a distance, or routinely released their large trained dogs to attack and kill, pretty quickly they’d learn new behaviors. Or at least the survivors would.

Pretty much by definition, we ordinary citizens don’t get a chance to see how interactions between urban wildlife and feral dogs/cats or loose pet dogs/cats play out. That’s probably a very different dynamic.

In rural areas it is common for people’s cats to go missing – it’s usually coyotes. They may not form a large part of a coyote’s diet but if it’s your cat you notice.

Where people have livestock it is common for dogs to be encouraged to run wild animals off the property. Because what is cute to urban dwellers isn’t all that cute in the country, where deer eat crops, foxes eat your poultry, and coyotes will take young lambs and kids. People with sheep and goat flocks often will keep dogs specifically bred to live out with the livestock and protect them; they are called Livestock Guardians Dogs; it is a breed complex that originated in Eurasian mountain areas for wolf protection.

LGDs work on the principle that predators cannot afford to get hurt, because if they can’t hunt they starve to death. So they avoid conflict as much as possible. LGDs patrol a perimeter, and bark (they are all big, deep-chested breeds with impressive barks) to tell predators that it is too risky to approach. Rarely are there actual confrontations. That’s a tangent but I find it fascinating so I stuck it in.

I visited someone living in the far western wilderness of Rhode Island where coyotes are abundant. Or were near his home before he got a Himalayan Sheepdog. He says there’s been no sign of coyotes since the dog showed up. They are impressive looking, and unexpectedly fast too.

cool. I don’t know what a Himalayan Sheepdog is, but I assume they are one of the LGD breeds. They are universally impressive looking.