Living with foxes

Minnesota has two species of fox, the red fox and its less common relative the gray fox.

The red fox exists throughout Minnesota, including the Twin Cities and suburbs. Traditionally, the gray existed primarily in the woodlands and forests that stretch from the southeast to the northwest. Yet these days the range and has expanded into parts of the southwest and northeast.

Typically, foxes avoid people and are not dangerous to humans except when they are rabid (which is very rare. Mange is more common in Minnesota fox than rabies). If you do see a fox exhibiting odd behavior – loss of body control, excessive salivation, unusual friendliness, etc. – contact your local animal control office . A fox’s natural tendency is to flee rather than fight.

Fox can be a problem for home owners and rural property owners. This is especially so when they associate people with food. Easy ways to scare fox include making loud noises, spraying a garden hose in their direction or taking another threatening action, such as tossing a ball at it. In many instances the fox you see is simply moving from one hunting area to another and no action is necessary.

Dealing with a fox den

Red and gray foxes dig dens mostly for raising kits but also for shelter from severe winter weather. If you find an active fox den beneath your porch or on your property you can simply let it be, thereby allowing the kits to grow to an age at which they will accompanying their parents on foraging outings and ultimately move away.

If you need a fox family to move on sooner you can initiate some mild harassment to encourage this. Humane harassment options once kits have emerged include:

  • Loosely packing leaves, soil or mulch in the den opening to disturb the residents.
  • Placing urine soaked kitty litter, a sweat-soaked T-shirt, smelly sweat socks or old sneakers in or near the den opening.
  • Mounting shiny party balloons on sticks or poles a few feet off the ground just outside the den entrance.
  • Spreading a commercially-available repellent around the den entry.
  • Placing a radio five or six feet away from the opening and leaving it on for a few days.

These goal of these tactics is to make the parents uncomfortable enough to move the litter to a more secure location. Once the den has been abandoned make sure all the kits are out of the den before any permanent exclusion is put in place.

Foxes are excellent diggers so a good way to keep them from denning under a porch or deck is to fence them out by with hardware cloth around the perimeter, making sure to bury the cloth into the ground 12 inches deep and so that a 12 to 24 inch -long L-shaped length of wire faces away from the porch or deck.

Foxes, cats and dogs

Most cats and dogs are not at risk from a fox. A typical adult cat is almost the same size as a fox so foxes generally are not interested in fighting a cat. However, kittens and very small adult cats (less than five pounds) could be prey for a fox.

Most dogs are not at risk from an attack by a fox unless they threaten the fox’s young. The exception is miniature dogs. They could be vulnerable.

If your pet is bitten by a fox contact your veterinarian.

Rabies and mange in foxes


Fox aren't dangerous to humans except when they are rabid, which is very rare. Although foxes sometimes succumb to rabies the fox strain of the disease has rarely if ever been transmitted to a human in the United States

Mange is an extremely debilitating wildlife affliction caused by microscopic parasites. The disease causes intense irritation of the skin to the point where foxes have been known to chew off their own tails to relieve the itching. At advanced stages, infected foxes are often seen wandering around during the daytime, seemingly unafraid. If you see a fox that you suspect is infected with mange contact your local animal control office.

DNR does not respond to fox calls

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources does not trap, shoot, or relocate fox. Where necessary, removal of fox is the responsibility of the landowner or tenant. If a fox is causing damage it may be removed by a landowner or their agent and report any fox killed to a conservation officer or employee of the Fish and Wildlife Division within 24 hours after the animal is killed. For information on Wildlife Control Operators consult your phone directory or browse website listings.

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