Creature Feature: Red fox sightings abound

Creature Feature: Red fox sightings abound

It seems like red foxes have been everywhere this winter. I saw a few for myself in Assateague this January, where they were out playing and leaping around in the marshes. The small, orange-y red mammals are pretty cute, especially when you’re able to watch from a safe distance (though binoculars would have come in handy when I saw them on Assateague). In addition to the local wildlife refuge, red foxes have been known to traipse around Ocean City, and during winter storm Grayson we received via Facebook this photo of a fox in the snow.

Fox sightings in and around OC

Seeing foxes roam around Ocean City isn’t uncommon. Upon sharing those fox photos from Assateague, Facebook users chimed in and shared photos from when they’d seen red foxes in Ocean City. “We saw two fox running in the Dunes this year and one ran right down in the middle of the beach mid morning near 85th street,” one user said. Another said, “Stayed on 134th st. a couple years ago, family of foxes were in the dunes, watched them play everyday!”  Some people have even shared their experiences on our forum. Last January, when walking down Coastal Highway one evening, I spotted two foxes hiding underneath a dinosaur sculpture on a mini golf course. 

Red fox kit
Cute fox facts: A baby red fox is called a kit.

These sightings aren’t anything new; for years, foxes have seemed almost as common in the urban landscape of Ocean City as raccoons and deer. That comes with the territory of using the land these animals called home for development and the expansion of our resort town.

Foxes are frequently spotted on the beach because they utilize sand dunes to build their dens. They’re also not too shy around humans and the trash/food scraps that humans often leave behind, which is another good reason you should always pick up after yourself on the beach and Boardwalk. 

Red foxes are most active during their breeding season, which can start as early as January and end as late as April. You’ll be most likely to spot the mostly-nocturnal animals at night, but there have also been local sightings early in the morning and even, occasionally, during daylight hours. 

On Assateague

Assateague Island National Seashore provides refuge to a variety of species, and the red fox is one of them. Just like in Ocean City, you’ll be most likely to find the foxes on the beach, where they feed on shorebirds, eggs and fish. So to the Facebook user who asked if foxes eat seagulls, the answer is yes

 Fast fox facts

Red fox
Red foxes can be found throughout North America, although they didn’t migrate to the East Coast until the mid-1800s. Photo from the National Park Service.
  • In the wild, the lifespan of the red fox is 2-5 years. In captivity, their lifespan is comparable to a domesticated dog and they can live to be up to 14 years. 
  • Red foxes have big, bushy tales that they often use as blankets to keep warm.
  • The gray fox can also be found on the Eastern Shore, but sightings are much less common compared to the red fox. 
  • The red fox is not the Delmarva Fox Squirrel, although you will get many results for that research as you dive into your red fox research! That Creature Feature is coming soon. 

Be cautious 

Red and gray foxes generally live in harmony with humans and don’t go out of their way to cause harm. That said, every wild animal should be viewed from a safe distance and viewers should not disturb or interrupt the animal in its natural environment. 

Rabies is another issue. In December, Delaware’s Division of Public Health warned those in the Rehoboth region to take precaution against potentially rabid animals. In 2016, 17 of the 137 animals captured and tested in the area tested positive for rabies. Among raccoons, bats, cats and dogs, one of those animals was a fox.

From the Center for Disease Control, here are some preventative measures you can take to control the spread of rabies in your community: 

  • Vaccinate your pet
  • Maintain control of your pets to reduce their exposure to wildlife
  • Spay or neuter to decrease the number of stray animals
  • Report any stray or ill animals to animal control

Again, you and your pets should always keep a safe distance from wild animals, even when they look perfectly healthy. Not all wild animals that are infected exhibit the classic signs of rabies.

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