Fox making friends in St. Louis, but rehabilitator warns against socializing wildlife

By Taylor MacPherson
August 1, 2018 - 2:00pm

A young fox is quickly becoming a familiar sight around the Village of St. Louis, but a Saskatchewan wildlife rehabilitator said feeding it isn’t a good idea.

Lynne Hills-Ketcheson, who has lived in St. Louis for more than a decade, said she was looking out her front window July 16 when she noticed the red fox crossing one of the main streets outside.

“I just went out the front of my house and sat on the step and this little guy came right up to me,” she said. “I took a little bit of dog food out to him just to see what he would do, and he came right up my step.”

At first, Hills-Ketcheson said she believed the fox had become lost and wandered briefly into town while ranging along the river. When she saw other neighbours feeding the animal later the same day, however, she realized the fox was starting to view humans as a source of food.

“He’s being fed by quite a few people,” she said. “I don’t blame people – I did the same thing. Our first instinct is to feed this little guy.”

Hills-Ketcheson said she’d like to see the fox removed from the village, as she’s concerned its lack of fear will lead to it being run over or shot. She contacted a Saskatoon-based wildlife centre, who sent a volunteer to try and catch the fox with no success.

“It’s like someone tipped him off, because he was nowhere to be found,” Hills-Ketcheson said with a laugh.

Jan Shadick, a wildlife rehabilitator with Living Sky Wildlife Rehabilitation, said the human population of St. Louis can happily coexist with the young fox, but she advised against feeding the fox to prevent it from becoming dependant on people.

Foxes are territorial, she said, so it will likely stay in the area and provide some benefits to the human population, so long as the locals stop feeding the animal and discourage it from coming too close.

“I think the St. Louis folks have a beautiful form of rodent control,” she said. “If they don’t socialize it and don’t feed it, it will become more elusive.”

Shadick advised residents to shoo the fox away by making noise if it approaches them, and discouraged anyone from feeding it.

Saskatchewan Conservation Officer Kevin Harrison echoed Shadick's calls for people to avoid direct interaction with the animal.

"Providing artificial food sources to wildlife can cause adults to produce large families or litters which the natural food supply cannot support," he said. "Overpopulation can lead to starvation and diseases."

 

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