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Fox family in Whitehorse neighbourhood could face removal this fall

‘The foxes have been here a lot longer, and we’re the invader’
A fox pup sits near its den located at a fenced-in water supply reservoir in the Copper Ridge neighbourhood on July 9. Some residents are worried the mischievous pups have been stealing shoes, gloves and items of clothing from the area, and may be responsible for getting into altercations with local pets. (Kallan Lyons/Yukon News)

A family of foxes are no strangers to residents of Copper Ridge in Whitehorse.

The fox den, located near a fenced-in water supply reservoir in the neighbourhood, has existed for the last ten years.

But this year the mischievous pups have been stealing shoes, gloves and items of clothing from their neighbours, and may be responsible for getting into altercations with local pets.

Peter Coates has lived in Copper Ridge for the past 15 years. He said his cat disappeared a few weeks ago.

“(It) might be a fox, might be an eagle, might be a car.… Cars and people are a much bigger risk than even the nastiest of bears, let alone a fox,” he said.

“We have to be more careful with our garbage and compost than people in more southerly neighbourhoods, but that’s part of living up here. We expect that, like we expect snow.”

Coates joked that it’s not likely he’ll have any footwear go missing.

“Good luck to a fox stealing my shoes, unlike some people I don’t have 10 pairs,” he said.

Aaron Koss-Young, human-wildlife conflict prevention officer for Environment Yukon, said the foxes will not be immediately removed. This is the first year he has heard of them causing any major conflicts in the neighbourhood.

“It would be cruel to do anything with the den site at this time. It would just dislocate them and that’s not our intention at all,’ he said.

After responding to several complaints from the public, Koss-Young said they have provided recommendations to the reservoir’s owner, the City of Whitehorse. The recommendation is to wait until the fox pups disperse and vacate their den in the fall before closing in the den holes, placing ammonia-soaked rags in the holes to deter them from coming back, and fixing the fence so the foxes can’t dig under it.

Koss-Young has heard rumours that someone’s cat has been killed, but can’t confirm that.

“Every second person really enjoys watching the foxes in their yard and playing on the front step,” said Koss-Young.

“Until your pet gets killed by a fox or injured by a fox, or you’ve got them denning under your porch and the stench is problematic.… As soon as they become an inconvenience to you, most people don’t like them.”

While some want to protect the foxes, it seems others want them gone.

One angry resident posted a sign saying they had contacted a conservation officer who confirmed the fox family will be removed as soon as possible.

“If it was your pet, I’m sure your kids would be upset too. Have a great fox free summer Copper Ridge,” they wrote, complaining that someone had stolen an earlier sign.

Another resident who lives just down the road from the den, Daniel Frost-Reed, said he enjoys seeing the foxes every spring and summer when the pups come out. He uses binoculars to watch them from his front window.

He said sometimes his mother gets mad when they make a mess of the yard, but they haven’t stolen anything.

“This year and last year they had a lot more pups so I think that’s probably why (they are stealing),” he said. “The pups are just bored this year, so (they’re) trying to act out.”

He said it’s neat to see the family every now and then, but he won’t miss them.

“It’s the Yukon. You can see (foxes) anywhere.”

Koss-Young is urging people not to feed the foxes. Feeding wildlife is illegal, but he’s heard stories of foxes wandering into homes and being hand-fed.

“You’re basically writing a death sentence for that fox, just like if you were to feed a bear,” he said.

Foxes can become easily habituated to people, and although Koss-Young hasn’t heard of a situation where someone has been bitten, it does create safety concerns.

“They start approaching … to the point where they’re pursuing little kids.… We don’t want anybody to be bit. So then we would have to take action and remove that fox, and it’s a lose-lose for the fox.”

If someone is spotted feeding the foxes, Koss-Young requests that people call the TIPP line at 1-800-661-0525.

In addition to leaving items like shoes inside, he suggests homeowners should keep pets indoors where possible, skirt their sheds, and place rubble or large rocks around decks so foxes can’t burrow underneath. Compost piles and vegetable gardens can also attract them, he said.

“I can see the validity to the action if people are that upset about foxes in the area and can’t modify their behaviour, then we’re going to have to move the foxes away.” said Coates.

For now, the fox family will remain king of the hill in Copper Ridge. Coates’s cat may have gone missing, but he’s not one to place blame.

“The foxes have been here a lot longer,” he said. “And we’re the invader.”

Contact Kallan Lyons