By Dedra Cordle
A skulk of foxes living in the community has the village of Urbancrest council debating whether to take action to remove the wild animals.
At its meeting on May 9, the council discussed which measures – if any – should be taken to address the skulk that has made a home in an open field adjacent to the residential area on Third Avenue.
Councilwoman Nikky Ziglar-Zimmerman said that while she believes they should be left to their own devices, a number of residents have reached out to express their concerns that the foxes could attack children or cause harm to their pets.
“They just want to know if there is anything we can do about the different wild animals that come into the village because they can be dangerous for our kids,” she said.
Councilman Lacy Wallace Jr. said there is no action they could take to keep wild animals out of their community entirely as they keep losing habitat to the commercial development that is taking place around the village.
“The ruralness of the area is attractive to certain deer, coyotes, and foxes,” he said.
Wallace said he also believes that the foxes should be left alone but added that residents should remain watchful of the behavior of the wild animals.
Mayor Joseph Barnes Sr. said the only thing the village could feasibly do to address the concerns is to call the county to come out and set traps for removal. He said because it is the season when the kits are born and learn how to hunt, there is no guarantee that the department would come out to remove the skulk.
Sarah Schott, a wildlife communications specialist with the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, said there is little reason for residents to be concerned about the presence of foxes in the community.
“Foxes will not attack people unless they feel extremely threatened,” she said. “Although they are curious creatures, they are very afraid of people and will usually run off. Like other animals, the mother is very protective of her young. If she feels her young are in danger (for example, someone attempts to pick up one of the kits) she may try to protect them.”
She said that as long as a safe distance is kept between the foxes and the residents, they will not pose a danger to them.
“It is always important to give wildlife the appropriate amount of space,” she said. “A good general rule of thumb is if the animal does not notice your presence and does not alter its current behavior then you are a good distance away. If the animal notices your presence, and stops what it is doing, then you are too close.”
Schott said that foxes will not normally attack a dog or a cat, but dogs may pose a threat to fox kits and the mother may try to attack if she feels that the kits are in danger. She recommended keeping dogs on a leash and away from the foxes to avoid these situations.
She added that if anyone feels threatened by the presence of a fox – or if they feel as if their pet is in danger – to wave their arms and make loud noises to scare them off.
There are some benefits to allowing a skulk to live in the community, she said.
For instance, foxes prey on rodents and work tirelessly to keep the rodent population down.
“They can serve as an ecological vermin control for an area,” said Schott. “Additionally, foxes can lower the risk of Lyme disease in an area. Mice are a main carrier of the bacteria that causes Lyme disease. When a tick attaches to an infected mouse, the tick can become a carrier of the bacterium and transmit the diseases to people and other animals. Since foxes heavily predate on mice, they can lessen the risk of Lyme disease.”
Schott encouraged the residents to become more familiar with the habits and lifestyle of foxes. She said they have made a home in the village because the mother feels it is a safe environment to raise her kits.
“People should not be concerned about their presence here and should simply observe them from a distance,” she said. “In a few months, the kits will grow up and disperse to different locations. Once summer comes to an end, people may occasionally see a fox, but they will not see them as regularly as they do now.”