COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Paul Crumrine can sometimes catch a quick glimpse of one of his new furry neighbors as the sun starts to set.
The local red foxes don’t seem too shy about letting their presence be known in this Westerville neighborhood. Crumrine saw one fox playing with a neighbor’s dog.
“I think it’s pretty cool,” he said.
While a fox sighting is not unheard of in Columbus suburbs, some say more of them are showing up in urban areas as they try to keep their pups safe from coyotes.
Suzanne Prange, a research biologist at the Ohio Division of Wildlife, said the adaptive red foxes are seeking shelter around people to avoid coyotes, which avoid populated neighborhoods.
“Sometimes to stay away from the coyotes, the foxes will move into other types of habitats,” she said. “They’re essentially getting displaced into more urban habitats.”
This migration to more populated neighborhoods has been happening for the past 10 years, Prange said.
According to the 2013 Ohio Department of Natural Resources’ bowhunter survey, red fox sightings in rural areas have decreased since the survey began in 1990. However, coyote sightings in rural areas have risen dramatically.
Foxes feed on small, reliable prey, like mice, rats, rabbits, and birds— all readily available in the suburbs. Neighborhoods also offer alluring garbage and food scraps to lactating female foxes in need of extra energy.
Jim McCormac, a naturalist with the Division of Wildlife, said he thinks the influx of foxes into neighborhoods around Columbus can be attributed in part to the animals’ boldness.
“The foxes have always been a part of urban areas like Columbus,” he said.
Prange said foxes don’t pose a physical threat to people unless they are provoked by someone who corners or tries to touch them.
Still, if homeowners don’t want foxes to take up residence in their yards, they should keep a safe distance and make their presence known so the animals don’t feel too comfortable, said Adam Turpen, the director of SCRAM Wildlife Control at the Ohio Wildlife Center.
McCormac said the foxes’ character and their resemblance to dogs make them entertaining backyard guests.
“Charismatic is the word I would use for them,” he said. “They have a cunningness to them too. It’s almost perceptible when you look at one. Just the way it looks at you, you can tell it’s an animal with a lot on the ball.”
Information from: The Columbus Dispatch, http://www.dispatch.com