Fox Damage Prevention and Control Methods

Identification | Biology | Damage ID | Management | Resources

Overview of Damage Prevention
and Control Methods

Habitat Modification

  • Avoid feeding and watering pets outdoors.
  • Properly dispose of garbage or other food sources that attract foxes.
  • Window wells deeper than 12 inches should be covered to prevent entrapment of wildlife. 
  • Removal of carcasses make livestock production areas less attractive to predators. 

Exclusion

  • Decks and outbuildings with crawl spaces should be secured to prevent foxes from establishing dens under them.
  • Seal all ground-level openings into poultry buildings and close doors at night.
  • Place beehives on stands 3 feet high.
  • Use tight-fitting lids to keep foxes out of garbage cans. 
  • Use fencing to exclude foxes from livestock

Frightening

  • Propane exploders, timed recordings, amplifiers, or radios may temporarily reduce fox activity
  • Flashing lights and dogs may also provide temporary relief from foxes

Repellents

  • Dog or coyote urine can be used as a temporary fox repellent.

Toxicants

  • Gas cartridges

Shooting

  • A small caliber (e.g. .223-, .22- to 250-) rifle is preferable at ranges from 50 to 400 yards

Trapping

  • Foothold traps
  • Cable restraints
  • Cage traps

Other Control Methods

  • Direct capture

Damage Prevention and Control Methods

Habitat Modification

Avoid feeding and watering pets outdoors. If this is not possible, restrict amounts that pets can consume in a single feeding. Properly dispose of garbage or other food sources that attract foxes. Foxes often are attracted to rodents living in barns, crawl spaces, sheds, and garages. Control of rodents may be necessary to deter foxes. Compost should be secured to prevent access to foxes and other wildlife. Window wells deeper than 12 inches should be covered to prevent entrapment of wildlife. Removal of carcasses make livestock production areas less attractive to predators. 

Exclusion

Decks and outbuildings with crawl spaces should be secured to prevent foxes from establishing dens under them. Seal all ground-level openings into poultry buildings and close doors at night. Poultry yards and coops without subsurface foundations may be fenced with 3-foot wire mesh. Secure the fence to the building and bury the bottom of the fence 2 or more inches with an apron of net wire extending at least 12 inches outward from the bottom.  

Foxes can be excluded from window wells or similar pits with wire-mesh or window-well covers. Place beehives on stands 3 feet high. Install aluminum guards around the bases of hives if foxes attempt to climb the supports. Use tight-fitting lids to keep foxes out of garbage cans. 

Shed lambing and farrowing in protected enclosures can prevent depredation. Construct wire-mesh fences 5 feet tall with openings of 3 inches or less to exclude red foxes. Bury the fence with an apron as described above. When possible, construct a roof of netting to exclude foxes that climb fences. A 3-wire electric fence with wires spaced 6, 12, and 18 inches aboveground can repel red foxes. Combination fences that incorporate net and electric wires also are effective. 

Frightening

Foxes readily adapt to noise-making devices such as propane exploders, timed recordings, amplifiers, or radios. Such devices may temporarily reduce activity in an area. Flashing lights, such as a rotating beacon or strobe, also may provide temporary protection in relatively small areas, such as enclosures for livestock or poultry.  

When properly trained, some guarding dogs (e.g., Great Pyrenees and Akbash dogs) have been useful in preventing predation on sheep. The effectiveness of dogs often depends on training and the individual disposition of the dog. In addition, several species of livestock, including llamas, alpacas, mules, and donkeys may serve as effective guards. They are aggressive, protective, and may deter foxes away from livestock, particularly sheep. 

Repellents

Urine of coyotes or dogs has been used as a repellent for foxes, but the long-term effectiveness of this technique is questionable. 

Toxicants

Gas cartridges made by USDA-APHIS-Wildlife Services (WS) are registered for fumigating dens of red foxes (Figure 7). Gas cartridges consist of cardboard cylinders filled with slow-burning chemicals. They are ignited and placed in burrow systems followed by sealing all entrances with sod. As the cartridges burn, they produce carbon monoxide and other gases that are lethal for foxes. 

Figure 7. Gas cartridge used to fumigate dens of foxes. Photo by Dallas Virchow. 

Gas cartridges are General Use Pesticides, however they may not be registered in some states for the control of foxes. Directions for their use are on the label and should be carefully read and followed. Do not use them in burrows located under wooden sheds, buildings, or near combustible materials because of the potential fire hazard. They will not explode if properly prepared and used. Avoid prolonged breathing of fumes. 

Fumigation is most effective when soil is wet (e.g., after a rain) because the water makes the soil less porous. Always follow the instructions on the label and consider the potential risks when using charcoal-based fumigants. Each burrow should be treated as described below.  

  1. During daylight, locate the main opening of the burrow (identified by a mound of excavated soil) and the secondary entrances associated with the burrow. Fumigate during the day or after witnessing foxes entering the den to increase the likelihood of treating an occupied den. 
  2. With a spade, cut a clump of sod that is slightly larger than each opening. Place a piece of sod over each entrance except the main 1. Leave a pre-cut clump next to the main entrance for later use.  
  3. Prepare the gas cartridge for ignition and placement by following the instructions on the label. Tape the cartridge to a 3-foot-long stick to aid in placing the cartridge deep into the burrow.  
  4. Kneel at the main opening of the burrow, light the fuse, and place (do not throw) the cartridge as far down the hole as possible.
  5. Immediately after positioning the ignited cartridge in the burrow, close all openings with the pieces of pre-cut sod, grass side down to prevent smothering the cartridge. Make a tight seal by packing loose soil over the sod. Look carefully for smoke that may leak from burrow openings and cover or re-seal leaks.  
  6. Repeat the steps until all burrows have been treated in areas where there are problems. Burrows can be treated with gas cartridges at any time, but the fumigant is most effective in spring before the young emerge. On occasion, treated burrows will be reopened by another animal and re-treatment may be necessary. 

The M-44, a mechanical ejection device containing sodium cyanide, is registered for control of red and gray foxes by WS personnel and certified pesticide applicators in some states. In addition to the instructions on the label, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) mandates 6 use restrictions on handling, application, signage, notification, transportation, and storage that must be followed. Information on the safe and effective use of sodium cyanide is available from state agencies that regulate pesticides.  

Shooting

Foxes are attracted to commercially available predator calls. If the animal is within 50 yards, a shotgun with buckshot is preferred. A small caliber (e.g. .223-, .22- to 250-) rifle is preferable at ranges from 50 to 400 yards. 

Trapping

The use of traps is very effective and selective, but a great deal of expertise is required to trap foxes effectively. Inexperienced trappers may educate foxes, making them very difficult to catch.  

Foothold Traps

Traps that are suitable for foxes are Nos. 1 ½, 1 ¾, and 2 double-coil spring traps, and Nos. 2 double-long spring traps. Traps with offset (Figure 8) or padded jaws cause less injury to animals that are restrained, and facilitate the release of non-target captures. State wildlife agencies regulate the traps and sets that can be used. Consult your state agency for restrictions.

Figure 8. Off-set jaws. Photo by Stephen M. Vantassel. 

Equipment needed for trapping foxes includes traps, a sifter with a 3/16 or ½-inch screen, trap stakes, trowel, gloves (which should be used only for trapping), a 16- to 20-ounce carpenter’s hammer with straight claws, and a bottle of scent. Remove the factory oil finish on the traps by boiling the traps in water and vinegar, or by burying the traps in moist soil for 1 to 2 weeks. The traps should be dyed with commercially available trap dye to prevent further corrosion. Proper location of the sets is crucial (Figure 9). 

Do not allow the traps and other equipment to come in contact with gasoline, oil, or other strong-smelling, contaminating materials. Cleanliness of equipment is absolutely necessary for consistent trapping success. 

When the set is completed, the pan of the trap should be about 5 inches from the entrance of the hole, with the pan slightly offset from the center of the hole (Figure 10). 

Figure 9 (above). X’s mark suitable locations for traps. 
Image by PCWD. 
Figure 10 (right). Top and side view of a dirt-hole set for foxes. 
Images by PCWD. 

Sets made along trails, at entrances to fields, and near carcasses often are most effective. The dirt-hole set is very selective. Dig a hole 6 inches deep and 3 inches in diameter at a downward angle, just behind the spot where the trap is to be placed. Place 4 to 5 drops of scent in the back of the hole. Move back from the bait hole and dig a hole 2 inches deep that is large enough to accommodate the trap and chain. Fasten the chain of the trap to a stake with a chain-swivel and drive the stake directly under the place where the trap is to be set. Fold and place the chain under or beside the trap. Set the trap about ½ inch below the ground. Adjust the pan tension (amount of force needed to fire the trap) to fire at ¼ of the weight of the fox to reduce the capture of lighter, non-target animals.  

Cover the area between the jaws and over the pan with a piece of waxed paper, light canvas, or light screen wire. The trap must be firmly bedded so that it does not move or wobble. The entire trap should be lightly covered with sifted soil up to the original ground level.  

Scents and lures for foxes can be homemade as described in books on trapping. Commercial scents can be purchased from most trap suppliers. Experiment with baits and scents to discover the combination that is most appropriate for your area.  

Cable Restraints

Cable-restraints made from 1/16-inch, 5/64-inch, and 3/32-inch cable (7×7 or 7×19 stranded cable) can be very effective for capturing both red and gray foxes. Cable-restraints generally are set in trails or under fences that are frequented by foxes. Trails leading to and from dens and to carcasses being fed on by foxes make excellent locations for cable-restraints. The standard size of the loop for foxes is 6 to 8 inches with the bottom of the loop about 8 to 12 inches above ground level (Figure 11). Cable-restraints should be suspended by a heavy-gauge wire holder and anchored by a trap stake. Check your local regulations, as cable-restraints are not legal for capturing foxes in some states. 

Cage Traps

Figure 11. Cable-restraint set in a trail of a fox.  
Image by PCWD. 

Cage traps (minimum 10 x 12 x 32 inches, Figure 12) sometimes are effective for capturing foxes in urban areas. Kit and swift foxes can be readily captured using this method. Use double-door cage-traps (42 x 8 x 8 inches) at entrances to dens. Box traps (minimum 10 x 12 x 32 inches) have been used successfully to capture gray foxes. 

Figure 12. Baited cage-trap for foxes.  
Photo by Stephen M. Vantassel. 

Handling

Relocation

Many states have restrictions on relocation of foxes, so check with your state wildlife agency before relocating a fox. Due to the risk of rabies, foxes should only be relocated in rescue situations.  

Translocation

Many states prohibit the translocation of foxes because they are a common carrier of rabies. If legal, foxes should be moved to suitable habitat at least 20 miles away from the capture site, preferably across major barriers such as rivers and mountain ranges.  

Euthanasia

Euthanasia by carbon dioxide is suitable for foxes. When performed properly, shooting the animal in the back of the skull is appropriate. 

Disposal

Check your state regulations regarding disposal of carcasses.  

Other Control Methods

Foxes can be removed with catch poles and cat graspers in confined areas.