Fox Damage Identification

Identification | Biology | Damage ID | Management | Resources

Damage Identification

Foxes typically hunt from dusk to dawn. They become more noticeable when young are born, as the need for food increases dramatically. In the absence of physical sign, foxes are detected easily using commercially available trail cameras. 

Damage to Structures

Foxes do not directly damage structures, but their burrows can lead to unpleasant smells and sites (dead prey) around a structure. Foxes are less destructive when they burrow than woodchucks and badgers.  

Damage to Livestock and Pets

Foxes often return to established denning areas every year. Watch for signs of den excavation or use during the spring, especially if a history of damage exists. Dens may go unnoticed until depredation occurs. Protection of livestock and poultry from depredation is most important when adult foxes are feeding their young. Young pigs, lambs, and small pets may be killed by foxes.  

Figure 5. Duck that has been killed by a fox.  
Photo by UNL. 

Foxes may cause problems for poultry and waterfowl producers. Turkeys in large range pens are vulnerable. Losses may be heavy in flocks on small farms. Pheasants, waterfowl, other game birds, and small game mammals also may be preyed upon by foxes (Figure 5).  

Predation can be difficult to detect, because prey often are carried from the site of the kill to a den where uneaten parts are buried. Foxes usually attack the throat of young livestock, but some foxes kill by inflicting multiple bites to the head, neck, and back. They generally prefer the viscera, and often begin feeding through an entry behind the ribs. Foxes also scavenge carcasses, making the actual cause of death difficult to determine if it is not discovered quickly. 

Damage to Landscapes

Foxes forage on berries, nuts, acorns, and corn, but damage to landscape plants is uncommon. Foxes may cause significant damage to turf, notably golf courses, when digging for grubs or rodents.  

Health and Safety Concerns

Healthy foxes generally are not dangerous to humans. Attacks on small dogs (less than 10 pounds) are infrequent in urban and suburban areas.  

Rabid foxes may attack people. Outbreaks of rabies are most prevalent among red foxes in southeastern Canada and occasionally, in the eastern US. The incidence of rabies in foxes has declined substantially since the mid-1960s. In 2010, only 429 cases of rabid foxes were reported in the US and Puerto Rico, compared to 2,246 for raccoons and 1,448 for skunks. Rabid foxes are a threat to humans, domestic animals, and wildlife.   

Canine distemper is a viral infection that affects foxes. Clinical signs of this disease are similar to rabies. The disease is highly contagious and can be passed to domestic animals.  

Figure 6. A red fox infected with mange.  
Photo by Aaron Hildreth. 

Red foxes are subject to mange (Sarcoptes scabei), though gray foxes seem to be resistant. Infection often results in loss of fur where mites have burrowed (Figure 6).