How feeding foxes can lead to them dying of disease

·1 min read
Mange can spread quickly where fox population densities are high. (Stephanie vanKampen/CBC - image credit)
Mange can spread quickly where fox population densities are high. (Stephanie vanKampen/CBC - image credit)

Nature P.E.I. is teaming up with the province's two cities for a campaign to get Islanders to stop feeding foxes.

Nature P.E.I. president Rosemary Curley told Island Morning host Laura Chapin she understands people think they are helping the foxes, but she said the animals don't need help from people, even in the cities.

"People think they cannot find their own food. But this is a myth. There's lots of food out there within the city and they don't really need to be fed," said Curley.

Voles are a big food source for foxes in the city, said Curley, along with other mice and rats. Small creatures such as grasshoppers, moths, worms and June bugs can round out their diets.

Laura Meader/CBC
Laura Meader/CBC

Five years ago foxes were a common sight on the streets of Charlottetown. In 2014, a research survey estimated 160 foxes were being born in Charlottetown every year.

That population was being supported by people feeding them, said Curley, and the high population density eventually led to trouble. A mange outbreak started in 2018.

"The mange has really ravaged the Charlottetown population, and Stratford as well has lost a lot of its foxes," said Curley.

Mange is a skin disease caused by a mite and is spread by contact. It can move quickly through a population when density is high, as the situation was in Charlottetown in 2018. The population has still not recovered.

Curley said the new campaign to discourage fox feeding will include flyers, signage and social media.

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