WEST SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WWLP) – Animal Control offers best practices after seeing an increase of reports about foxes that look sick.

Red and gray foxes are abundant in Massachusetts and can live close to humans as they only require a source of food, water, and cover. They are usually shy but are also very curious. You can see foxes in western Massachusetts all year round at any time of the day.

Mange is caused by a microscopic mite that lives in the skin and is often caused by a problem with the fox’s immune system. According to Andover Animal Control, if a fox ingests something such as rodents who have eaten poison from a bait box, this could very much lower his immune system, along with other potential toxins.

A fox with mange could have a scabby-looking or swollen face could be missing patches of fur, and could have a thin, rat-looking tail due to hair loss. They may be spotted close to homes because mange makes them so incredibly itchy that the fox cannot sit still long enough to hunt, so they take advantage of the free and easy food located closer to where people live (trash, rodents attracted to fallen bird seed and garbage, fruit trees and potentially even pets).

West Springfield Animal Control advises the following to help reduce the number of animals that contract and suffer from mange.

  • Don’t feed or pet foxes: Secure trash, keep bird feeder areas clean, and remove if foxes are seen regularly in your yard, after each use make sure your grill is cleaned out.
  • Don’t use poison/bait boxes: There are many unintended targets (cats, dogs, owls, hawks, fox, etc.) that become victims of rodenticide poisoning.
  • Don’t relocate wildlife: While it may sound like a good solution it rarely will have a positive outcome for the moved animal, the issue will remain as the habitat will still be desirable for new wildlife to move in, and it is against state laws!
  • Observe wildlife from a distance: With every human encounter, wild animals are slowly desensitized to us and lose their natural fears. This can be quite problematic when an unexpected encounter happens
  • Pet owners: Foxes can view cats as potential food. For the safety of your pets, keep them leashed at all times. Additionally, feed your pets indoors. Outdoor feeding can attract many wild animals.

If you are experiencing problems with foxes or have questions, contact your nearest MassWildlife office.