By Supervisor George Hoehmann
Over the past few months, several residents have voiced concerns about foxes appearing in their communities. According to the New York State DEC expanding coyote populations, (a potential predator of red fox), have pushed red fox further into residential areas in recent years.
It is important to note that Rockland County is the smallest county in New York State by area, but also happens to be the 14th most populated county in the state. A third of our county is designated parkland and is protected from development. When you combine county and state parks, the Town of Clarkstown has 700 acres of parkland and 250 acres of open space. All of this land area provides a natural habitat for all kinds of wildlife, including foxes. When this higher population density combines with large habitat spaces, interactions with wildlife, like foxes, is naturally more frequent in Rockland County.
However, when a fox is sighted, there is no need for panic or alarm. So long as they are undisturbed, foxes do not pose a major threat to humans. They have a natural fear of people, and their tendency in most situations is to flee rather than fight. They may eat fruit, but almost never bother garden vegetables, and usually only cut through yards to get from one hunting habitat to the next.
That said, foxes are omnivores and predators, and should be treated with caution and respect. The red fox has a variable diet, likely coinciding with local prey populations and seasonal availability of small mammals and birds, but can also be tempted by easily accessible pet food or garbage. Since they are predators, there is also a risk that foxes could prey on smaller pets. Therefore, it is a good idea not to leave small pets outside unsupervised, and don’t leave out unsecured garbage, food, or bird seed. Per NYS DEC regulations, bird feeders are not allowed out after April 1st.
If you do need to deter a fox, it is often effective to use aggressive behavior. Stand tall, hold your arms out and wave them to look large, while making loud noises by yelling or blowing whistles. If there are small objects nearby, throw them, and if you have a hose douse them. While deterring them from a distance is safe, it is always important to exercise caution, and never try to trap or relocate a fox yourself.
Healthy foxes pose almost no danger to humans, but in rare cases, foxes can get rabies. Some signs of rabies include partial paralysis, drunken-like staggering/circling, and self mutilation. It’s not unusual to see a fox in the daytime, and some healthy foxes can become more comfortable with humans. An unnaturally tame or overly aggressive fox could be rabid.
If a person or pets are bitten, it is important to clean the wound as soon as possible and seek immediate medical attention by calling 911. To report any other fox issues, residents are encouraged to contact the Clarkstown Police Animal Control Officer at 639-5888 or the main police line at 639-5800, any time, to report any animal incidents.
Also, please be sure to follow the Clarkstown Police Department and the Town of Clarkstown on Facebook and social media to keep up to date on animal sightings and basic safety tips. You can learn more by visiting the NYS DEC website at https://www.dec.ny.gov/.