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Montrealers’ 5 top questions on urban fox safety answered

MONTREAL — Numerous sightings of foxes in areas in and around the Island of Montreal are raising questions about the safety of wild animals and humans living in close proximity to one another.

Some residents in the off-island city of Vaudreuil expressed concern for the safety of young children and small dogs after seeing foxes in the area.

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According to McGill University’s Urban Nature Information Service (UNIS), red foxes are commonly spotted in urban areas and your chances of meeting one rocket from April to May, during breeding season.

They often look for a safe, quiet place to build a den, and can fit into a 4 inch by 4 inch hole, so watch out for those small cracks under your deck or garage! Foxes are also good climbers.

A fox spotted in Vaudreuil, Que. in July 2014.
A fox spotted in Vaudreuil, Que. in July 2014. Nick Clayton/Global News
A fox spotted in Vaudreuil, Que. in July 2014.
A fox spotted in Vaudreuil, Que. in July 2014. Nick Clayton/Global News
A fox spotted in Vaudreuil, Que. in July 2014.
A fox spotted in Vaudreuil, Que. in July 2014. Nick Clayton/Global News
A family of foxes discovered under a step in Montreal in 2004.
A family of foxes discovered under a step in Montreal in 2004. Jeff Sykes/Skedaddle Wildlife
A family of foxes discovered under a step in Montreal in 2004.
A family of foxes discovered under a step in Montreal in 2004. Jeff Sykes/Skedaddle Wildlife
A family of foxes discovered under a step in Montreal in 2004.
A family of foxes discovered under a step in Montreal in 2004. Jeff Sykes/Skedaddle Wildlife
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A family of foxes discovered under a step in Montreal in 2004.
A family of foxes discovered under a step in Montreal in 2004. Jeff Sykes/Skedaddle Wildlife
A family of foxes discovered under a step in Montreal in 2004.
A family of foxes discovered under a step in Montreal in 2004. Jeff Sykes/Skedaddle Wildlife
A family of foxes discovered under a step in Montreal in 2004.
A family of foxes discovered under a step in Montreal in 2004. Jeff Sykes/Skedaddle Wildlife
A family of foxes discovered under a step in Montreal in 2004.
A family of foxes discovered under a step in Montreal in 2004. Jeff Sykes/Skedaddle Wildlife
An urban fox forages for food at dawn on a suburban street on October 18, 2010 in London, England.
An urban fox forages for food at dawn on a suburban street on October 18, 2010 in London, England. Oli Scarff/Getty Images
An urban fox passes the door to No 10. Downing St, the home of Britain's Prime Minister.
An urban fox passes the door to No 10. Downing St, the home of Britain's Prime Minister. Carl De Souza/AFP/Getty Images

The City of Vaudreuil is telling its residents to remain calm, and on Wednesday, it was reassuring animal lovers that the foxes would not be trapped and killed.

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“In the fall, the situation will be re-evaluated in order to assess the peaceful co-existence of citizens with foxes,” the city noted in a statement.

“However, if it is established that the foxes pose a risk to public health, the City will take necessary measures, in compliance with the Ministère de la faune, to intervene in specific situations.”

With the fox controversy lighting up social media in Montreal, here are five of your fox-safety questions answered.

Will foxes eat our children?

Some people might remember the incident in Australia, when a dingo allegedly ate a baby in 1980. It’s important to note however, that urban foxes in Montreal do not pose the same threat. At all.

Are foxes dangerous?

Bearing in mind that foxes are a wild animal, they are still generally considered safe.

However, foxes become defensive over their young like any other species. If you happen to see fox pups, stay clear and do not try to approach them.

Will a fox eat a cat or dog?

According to McGill University’s Urban Nature Information Service (UNIS), foxes do not eat cats or dogs, and “will actively avoid both.”

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Foxes typically feed on small game like rabbits, birds and rodents, and are also known to eat insects, acorns, fruits, vegetables and eggs.

There is nothing to worry about. Montreal’s pets are safe.

Do foxes carry disease?

Foxes can carry ectoparasites, such as ticks and flees, which can hop onto the skin of humans or pets.

Some foxes may also carry rabies, so it’s vital that you call Info-Santé by dialing 8-1-1 if you are ever bitten by a fox or if you come in contact with any of its bodily fluids.

If a fox seems disoriented, aggressive, paralysed or ill, it may have rabies, and people are advised call 1-877-346-6763 to report the situation to authorities.

McGill’s UNIS noted that it’s actually relatively rare for foxes to have the disease, suggesting that people are much more likely to meet a rabid raccoon, skunk or bat.

How can I get rid of foxes?

“There is no perfect way for getting rid of foxes,” Bill Dowd, the president of Skedaddle Humane Wildlife Control told Global News.

“What can be done is prevention, by boarding up any open spaces, such as under porches, steps and inside sheds.”

According to the City of Vaudreuil, other preventive measures include not feeding the foxes and removing any indirect food sources, like bird feeders or pet food left outside. The city also recommends installing a fence, using motion detectors to light up the yard and adequately protecting garbage to deter foxes.

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– With files from Amanda Kelly