As a fox and her kits continue to occupy a den under the boardwalk near Toronto’s Woodbine Beach Park, tensions among those gathering at the site appear to have escalated.
Natasha Watson sent a video of part of the exchange to Global News on Wednesday. She said in a subsequent interview that an argument broke out early Wednesday between a woman walking her dog and a man.
Watson said there were approximately 10 people in the area looking at the den when the woman and her dog stopped close by. She said the fox began getting defensive, growling and barking at the dog.
“Everyone else was sort of urging her to get the dog out of there,” Watson told Global News.
She said she then began to film the exchange between the woman and the man. He can be heard telling the woman that the fox is stressed.
“Are you insane? Are you insane?” he can be heard saying.
“Are you an a–hole?” she replied, noting that other people were standing at the same site.
As the argument continues, the fox can be seen moving around in the background and it appeared to be looking at the dog.
“Listen lady, take your dog and go home. Go home,” he said.
“What are you going to do, hit me?” she asked.
“No, I’m not going to hit you,” he said.
“You’ve got no mask on you a–hole,” she said before she appeared to cough a few times in the man’s direction.
She went on to say the man came up to her before referencing social distancing. The man replied saying the fox was stressed.
“Oh, do you think they have to know to stay away from predators,” she replied.
“Or maybe they should know that they should be around people, they’re babies.”
Watson said at the beginning, she believed the woman may not have known about the potential danger.
“The lady wouldn’t leave and that was the thing causing the most agitation as far as the foxes were concerned. It sort of blew out of proportion,” she said.
After the video ended, Watson said the situation “diffused” and she walked away. She said the fox followed the woman and her dog as they left the park.
“You could see again how the dog was disrupting the foxes being foxes,” Watson said.
“People are getting riled up way too easily nowadays … why are we behaving like this?”
After the publication of this story, a woman who identified herself as the person in the video walking her dog contacted Global News.
The 62-year-old woman, who asked not to be identified due to safety concerns, said she coughed in the man’s direction, but only did so in self-defence and in an attempt to “get him away.”
She said she frequently visits Woodbine Beach and claimed the unidentified man came within 18 inches of her face, causing her to ask, “Are you going to hit me?”
The woman said she contacted Toronto police 55 Division officers Thursday morning, but didn’t file a formal complaint.
Global News contacted Toronto police to ask about the incident and a spokesperson said there was no official record in their system.
Meanwhile, a spokesperson for Toronto Animal Services said in a statement on Wednesday that staff worked with the Toronto Wildlife Centre to erect a higher privacy fence around the location.
The statement said signage was also installed warning people to stay away and to not feed wildlife. City of Toronto bylaw officers were also assigned to keep watch of the area, according to the spokesperson.
“When wild animals are fed by humans, it alters their natural instinct to be afraid of people — putting both humans and animals at risk,” the statement said.
“Wild animals do not need food provided to them by people because they are skilled foragers and hunters and can find sources of higher quality food on their own.
“Letting animals use their own natural instincts and behaviours is the only kindness they need.”
Officials also said under the law, the foxes can’t be removed unless the animals are injured.