Foxes - Some FAQ
Sunday, August 19, 2012 8:04:35 AM
Do foxes make cool pets?
In a word: no. I've fostered 10 cubs and cared for several adults in rehab, and there is no way that I'd keep one as a housepet. The very characteristics that make them so fascinating as wildlife lend them tornado-like qualities within a confined environment.
It's true that there have been experiments 'domesticating' foxes in Russia, but there are many animal welfare concerns. We have already domesticated numerous species and the outcome hasn't been good. Dogs and cats are killed by the million because we've over-bred them. Horses, cattle and chickens suffer from diseases that their wild relatives never knew. It would be much better to sort out the existing problems before trying to tame something else.
Real, unmodified foxes - the ones on this blog - just wouldn't work as pets. There are 300 breeds of domestic dog, most of which will form a strong bond with their owner and be happy about doing so. Foxes belong in the wild.
Can I feed foxes?
In North America - no.
In the UK - if in doubt, please don't.
Many British people enjoy feeding their garden foxes, and often it doesn't do much harm - in the UK. Sometimes, though, the provision of food will lead to locally high fox numbers, turning the neighbours against wildlife. Hand-feeding foxes should always be avoided because it leads to nuisance begging behaviours, which may end in the foxes being killed, or at least cause bad PR. The general advice to keep quantities low, and never encourage them to enter a house.
In North America, it's very different. Feeding wildlife in parks frequently leads to the animal being shot as a safety risk, and urban wildlife doesn't fare much better. The tolerance of 'bold' wildlife (including foxes) by authorities is much lower than in Europe, which compounds the problem; black bears, in particular, are often shot when they are not actually presenting a risk, but coyotes and wolves can and do bite people after getting accustomed to receiving handouts. It's not fun for the victim, and the resulting news stories don't do conservation a lot of good.
Even in cities, providing food or failing to secure garbage can cause conflicts with rats, feral cats, raccoons and skunks.
How can I treat a fox with mange?
Sarcoptic mange is a skin disease that is fairly common in foxes and coyotes. It is caused by a mite and results in progressive fur loss. In extreme cases it can be fatal due to hypothermia or secondary skin infections. However, it is easily treated - provided the fox cooperates. Treatments such as ivermectin can be provided in food (where this is appropriate), or the fox can be captured and given medicine in a wildlife rehab centre. I've seen successful outcomes both ways. Some charities are listed here.
There are several wildlife groups that offer a homeopathic remedy. I realise that the topic of 'alternative' medicine is rather heated, but from a scientific perspective, there is no benefit and a large degree of risk - not from the substance, which is diluted out of existence, but from failing to provide credible treatment to an animal which is in pain and potentially dying. The use of homeopathy in such circumstances is unethical.