UPEI fox researcher looking for public's help
Study seeks to uncover secrets of urban foxes
Researchers at the University of Prince Edward Island are asking for the public's help in tracking P.E.I.'s urban red foxes.
There are no hard numbers, but anecdotal evidence points to a growing number of foxes in Island city neighbourhoods. UPEI biology professor Marina Silva-Opps said they seem completely adapted to urban living.
"It's incredible how flexible the behaviours of foxes can be, and I guess that's why they're so successful," she said.
Silva-Opps wants to study the movements and habits of urban red foxes, so she has set up a website where Islanders can log their sightings. She said very little research has been done on the subject of foxes in cities, either on P.E.I. or anywhere else.
"We don't know much about their ecology, their behaviour, not even their abundance,' said Silva-Opps. "We realize we have to start with something."
Regular users of the Confederation Trail in Charlottetown are used to seeing foxes as they walk past the fields of the city's experimental farm.
But it seems as though the small canines are beginning to turn up in strange places, for instance nestled up among the branches of a tree on the UPEI campus or curled up in the snow on the roof of a house.
Brad Potter, a wildlife biologist with P.E.I.'s Forests, Fish and Wildlife section, said calls about foxes have been increasing.
"We don't consider them a threat," he said. "It certainly depends on your point of view whether you consider them a nuisance. They certainly can dig, and they do cause some problems for people who take a lot of pride in their properties."
Potter said foxes help control rodent populations in cities. He said while they aren't considered dangerous, people should not approach or feed foxes or any other wild animals.
Some cat owners concerned about their pets' safety have called the province but Potter said foxes are not major predators of cats.
Silva-Opps said the results could help cities like Charlottetown and Summerside develop strategies to keep red fox numbers from getting out of hand. The City of Summerside has been considering trapping within city limits as a way to control fox populations there.
The address of the website where you can log your fox sightings is upei.ca/redfox.