Frequently Asked Questions
Check out our answers to some of the questions we receive about the captive-bred foxes and wildlife:
Are the foxes that you post on social media your pets?
We post about both wild foxes who are wildlife rehabilitation intakes, and the captive-bred and/or non-releasable foxes who are permanent residents at our sanctuary.
Our permanent residents are, in a sense, like our non-traditional "pets", yes. I use the term "pets" with caution, because they require a much different level of care and respect as your traditional pets (ex: cat or dog), as well as another realm of legal requirements. As of now (July 2022), we have 21 permanent resident foxes. They are used to human contact and will remain in captivity for the remainder of their lives, as it would be both illegal and immoral to release them. Because they have to remain under human care forever, our goal is to form strong bonds with them, if possible, to make their stay as happy and comfortable as we can.
The posts you see of the orphaned Red Fox kits who are wildlife rehabilitation intakes are not our pets: we strongly limit and minimize human interaction with them, and the end goal is always to release them back into the wild. We treat them completely different than we do our permanent residents, as we want them to have a very healthy fear of humans prior to release.
What do foxes eat?
In the wild, foxes are omnivores. However, many people refer to them as "opportunistic carnivores". This means that they are primarily meat-eaters, but they will take the opportunity to eat whatever they can get. They catch small prey, and sometimes eat carcasses left behind by larger predators. They'll also eat insects, eggs, fruits, vegetables, nuts, etc. that they find along the way.
A fox's diet will vary depending on geographic location. Many Arctic Foxes, for example, will eat a large number of lemmings (a type of rodent). Years that lemming numbers are low, though, they may eat more eggs, fruits, berries, carrion, etc.
I'm worried a fox will attack my kids, cats, and small dogs...
It is extremely rare - in all of my years as a rehabber I have never witnessed a case - for a fox to view your infant, cat, or small dog as prey. Especially with humans: healthy foxes want to run from you, they don't want to attack you. They would "attack" only as a last resort - if you have them cornered, you are an unsafe distance and active threat to their kits (even in these cases some parent foxes may run instead of defend), etc. If a fox is denning by, for example, a shed in your backyard, simply enjoy watching the family grow, and stay a respectful distance away. If they know you aren't bothering them or their family, they won't want to bother you. They'll just be a great form of rodent control while they are there! If you see a fox chasing your dog or cat in the spring, it is almost surely because they have a den nearby and are just trying to keep their babies safe and chase off what they view as a threat. It is honestly much more likely for a fox to view these animals as a playmate (I've seen footage of this) than a prey animal, because even though cats and dogs may be small, foxes can sense that they, too, are considered a predator-type animal. Plus, foxes generally don't want to put in the effort to go after prey that's over 2 lbs.
Still, it is safest practice to 1) never encourage your children to go near wildlife, and if you see a wild predator, keep a respectful distance, and 2) keep your small animals indoors when unsupervised, especially because there are many airborne (hawks, eagles, owls, etc.) and land predators who are a much bigger threat than a fox would be.
Can you just live-trap and relocate the fox I'm worried about?
Trapping and relocating foxes really isn't an ideal option, because 1) if they have a den, you'd be orphaning any kits that may be left behind, as it's extremely difficult to relocate an entire family, and 2) foxes are territorial creatures, so the minute you remove one from what they consider good territory, another one is just going to move in.
How do I become a Wildlife Rehabilitator?
Wildlife Rehabilitators are licensed by their state to legally be able to care for orphaned or injured wildlife, with the ultimate goal always being release back into the wild.
You can find out how to become a wildlife rehabber by visiting your state's wildlife conservation agency's website, or giving them a call. Each state may have different requirements to become licensed. For example, here are a few of the main requirements in our home state, New York:
You must be at least 16 years old
You must pass a test offered by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation
You must have an exit interview with a special licenses officer at your facility
You must send in annual reports regarding your year's wildlife intakes
To be honest, in our opinion, the steps to becoming a Licensed Wildlife Rehabilitator are fairly simple. We always need more volunteer rehabbers, so if you love wildlife and want to help, you should totally look into it!
For more information on how to become a wildlife rehabber in New York State, click here.
Do foxes make good pets?
The easy answer to this question would be, "no, foxes do not make good pets for the average person". There are always exceptions to the rule - as each animal has its own temperament - however, most foxes are destructive indoors (and must have supervision at all times indoors) and require an outdoor enclosure, cannot be fully potty-trained, they mark things they like, cannot be disciplined like a dog, lose trust easily, take it extremely hard if they have to be rehomed, go through hormonal, seasonal changes, may require special state and/or federal permits, may not like physical affection once they reach adulthood, have a very strong, natural odor, and more.
With that being said, there is a special type of person who can handle life with this type of animal, and if you are one of them, the mutual bond and respect that you create with a fox is incredible and unique.
They require an owner to fully understand what their physical and mental needs are, and someone who can invest a very large amount of time caring for and properly desensitizing them.
Many pet fox owners who keep foxes partially indoors will tell you that you must understand that your life now revolves around the fox: you cannot expect the fox to fit your lifestyle, you must fit its lifestyle - it is all-consuming.
The biggest issue with their rise in popularity in the exotic pet industry, is that people are under the false impression that foxes are "just like dogs". They have some similar characteristics, because both are canines, however, they are very different: They listen when they want to, they are only affectionate when they want to be (which may be never - depending on what your fox's temperament turns out like after sexual maturity), they act instinctually and "wild" in situations where a dog may be trained to act otherwise (Ex: food aggression if they really like a treat, resorting to possible fear aggression if spooked, running away and not looking back or remembering where home is if they get loose), and more.
In the United States, foxes have yet to technically have become a "domesticated" pet, even though they're growing in popularity in the exotic pet industry. Most lines have been bred for coat color (through the fur farming industry), as opposed to domestication. We have read that there are a couple of reputable breeders in the U.S. who are striving towards this goal, but as of now, the only place where foxes have actually been bred solely for domestication - and the only place where we consider true "Domestic Foxes" to come from - is at an institute in Russia.
How Can I Treat a Fox Suffering From Sarcoptic Mange?
So, you have a mangy fox on your property. What’s next?
First, let’s get something out of the way: Contrary to what many people think, a fox with mange does NOT equate to a rabid fox. They tend to temporarily lose some fear of humans, and venture closer to humans and buildings, because they are simply looking for an easy food source and easy shelter.
Mange is caused by a tiny mite, and the mite itself isn’t a huge deal. However, many other issues will occur, for example: these foxes become so uncomfortable that they can’t focus their energy on catching prey or staying warm, may scratch themselves so badly that secondary skin infections occur, and oftentimes, ultimately die of a combination of organ failure, starvation and hypothermia. They’re only curled up in your flower bed, dog house, horse barn, eating your cat’s kibble, digging through your garbage, etc., because they’re desperate. (They aren't there because they want to eat your dogs and human children, don't worry. Even healthy foxes don’t usually want to put in the effort to catch prey that’s over a couple of pounds!)
It is not advisable to trap, treat, and relocate mangy foxes, unless absolutely necessary. If possible, it is always ideal to treat them onsite, and to not uproot them from their territory.
Mange is VERY treatable. First, contact your local wildlife rehabilitator, and see if they think this is a situation where they can treat the fox with a prescription medication called “Bravecto”. One dose of Bravecto will treat and prevent for three months. It’s not cheap, and as mentioned, is a prescription, so for this method, we need to be sure that the fox is the one getting the medication, so the fox usually needs to be captured or trapped.
If they don’t think this method will work, see if they can help develop another plan. If they can’t assist you, below is an outline of how you can treat for mange yourself!
(Please note: I am not a veterinarian, and am not giving medical advice for your pets. I am licensed through NYS as a wildlife rehabilitator, and volunteer my time raising, rehabilitating, and releasing orphaned or injured local wildlife.)
First: Set up one feeding station using cat or dog food. If you have one on hand already, either is fine to use. Set the feeding station - which can be as simple as a dish of food - in the fox's territory, where you've seen it frequenting. Once you are sure that your fox(es) is coming to your station (bonus points if you know when), follow these steps:
Step 1) Go to your local livestock supply store, such as a Tractor Supply, and
purchase a bottle of 1% injectable Ivermectin. The brand does not matter.
Pictured on this page is a photo of a common brand.
Step 2) While there, purchase a small package of both needles and syringes. Ideally, get 18 gauge needles, and 1 cc syringes. If one of those is unavailable, choose the closest size you can. You want to be able to read a dose of 0.2cc on your syringe. Please do not confuse this with 2.0cc.
(Online, you can find needle and syringe combo, ready-to-use packages for sale in this size combination. You can also find Ivermectin online.)
Step 3) Buy a package of frozen, cheap meatballs – ones that are as plain as possible. (This is not an absolute necessity, but I find them to be great vessels.)
Step 4) You will be injecting your thawed meatballs with 0.2cc of Ivermectin each. Please do not use “pour on” Ivermectin – make sure it is the injectable that we mentioned above. I usually recommend spreading out a couple (two to three) Ivermectin-laced meatballs around your feeding station, at least several feet apart, in case another animal finds one. If the fox does happen to eat all of them, it is not a huge concern.
Ivermectin is generally a very safe drug. It will actually treat many species of animals for both internal and external parasites! Be aware that Ivermectin is dangerous for collies or some other herding breeds to ingest, though. Do not place the Ivermectin if those breeds have access to your feeding station. Contact your veterinarian if you are unsure if your dog may have a sensitivity to Ivermectin.
Here is your dosing schedule:
Once weekly for the next three to six weeks
If your fox sticks around for that entire time, great, but if not, don’t fret. Getting at least a couple of doses into them is better than nothing. Once you get past the third week, you can push your treatments out to approximately ten days apart if you’d like. You will likely not even come close to finishing your bottle of Ivermectin during this treatment process!
If you are treating an entire family - den - of foxes:
We suggest scattering several medicine-laced meatballs around the den on a weekly basis for several weeks. The parents will oftentimes gather a few snacks at a time and bring them down into the den. Unfortunately, we have no way of knowing who got a meatball and who didn't, so we cross our fingers that everyone gets at least a couple of doses this way! Although it is not ideal to not know who is getting what dose, the outcome will be better than the family of foxes slowly deteriorating and passing away because of mange, that's for sure!
Thank you for caring enough about these creatures to seek help! Watching the transformation from mangy, weak fox, to strong, healthy, happy fox – especially when you’re the one who helped them – is an incredible feeling!
We love hearing about positive results and transformations, so please feel free to share photos, videos, and testimonials with us!
Important, Please Note:
•If there are mangy foxes in your area, that means that mange mites are in the local environment (that’s where the fox got it from), and it’s important to have your domestic pets - mainly dogs - on a parasite preventive. You can talk to your vet to check if your routine parasite preventative will protect against mange mites.
•Although less common, it is possible for humans to get a rash if they have direct contact with mange mites. If you’re concerned about this, please consult with your primary care doctor.