Wild, Wild Life, Part 2: “The Fox & Minnie”

Wild, Wild Life, Part 2: “The Fox & Minnie”

Photo: austintexas.gov

Part Two of a Three-Part Series by District 6 neighbors Dave Marshall and Nancy Bain

A few years ago, one of our Canyon Creek residents, Nancy Bain, had an encounter with a fox near her home. Her experience, shared here, illustrates the predicament that many homeowners face and offers suggestions about how to deal with these encounters.

One day, early in July, my neighbor’s 19-year-old daughter came to my door holding a small carrying cage. She was upset. Apparently, a fox had attacked their pet rabbit, Minnie, who lived in a caged area in the backyard. Her family is in the process of moving and had left Minnie until they could move the cage structure to the new house. She needed to get the rabbit safely into the carrying cage and to a vet. I remembered I had seen a fox walk across my deck toward my neighbor’s yard a few days before, but I forgot there was a rabbit outside. I soon found myself trying to lure the rabbit into the cage. Minnie’s nose had been almost bitten off!  After several attempts, we lifted one side of the caged area off the ground, created a pathway of kale greens into the carrying cage and, at the right moment, pushed the rabbit into it.
I called Animal Control and was told to call 3-1-1. They referred me to another number. Eventually, I spoke to a person who took the details of the situation.  My neighbor had called them before about the fox, but was told that, unless a pet or human had been harmed, there was nothing that could be done. It took me about 20 minutes to complete the interview. The person took our contact information and told me that someone would call from the Austin Animal Center. Adrienne Clark, Animal Protection Officer–Wildlife, Austin Animal Center called us back.
Ms. Clark made several suggestions:

  1. Keep small pets inside if possible. Monitor outside pets like rabbits, kittens, chickens, and guinea pigs living in your backyard and provide sturdy, secure enclosures.
  2. Observe leash laws when walking dogs; leashes should be 4-6 feet in length
  3. When encountering foxes, make a lot of noise (like banging pots and pans). Foxes are afraid of people and loud noises.
  4. If a fox has made a den in your backyard, place used cat litter and shiny Mylar balloons by the den opening to encourage the animals to relocate on their own.

She also told me that many neighborhoods have a “resident fox,” and it is unlikely that a fox like that will disappear, as long as there are small animals around, cat food outside, available food sources, etc. The City of Austin does not relocate or remove healthy wildlife. However, an Animal Protection Officer will work with residents to find inexpensive and humane solutions to help reduce urban wildlife conflicts.
My neighbors’ daughter took Minnie to the pet store where she works, and the vet there (a “bunny expert”) treated Minnie’s wound and gave her antibiotics. The neighbors also arranged for Minnie to go to a different vet for surgery to remove the hanging nose parts.
I then went to my other neighbors with the news and instructions from Adrienne. A neighbor across the street told me she had seen two foxes in the front yard while their cat was in the yard. “Perhaps there is a family of foxes??” I thought. I went to my backyard and dropped clumps of cat urine from my cat’s litter box.  Later, I purchased two Mylar balloons on sticks and set them in the yard.

All was quiet for a couple of days. Then, that Wednesday, around 6pm, my husband saw the fox again, running across our deck and jumping over the fence to the neighbor’s yard. I banged on a pan and yelled loudly. On Thursday, we saw three skunks wandering around in our backyard around dusk, and the fox was with them! I yelled and banged again. They all disappeared – the skunks finding a hole to go under my deck. The next day, we blocked the hole under the deck. The next week, we had some landscaping work done in our backyard. The workers may have scared the wildlife away temporarily. And, Minnie has moved. But, I have to question why this is happening, and what resources are available to help me, my neighbors, and the animals.

– Nancy Bain
[Stay tuned for Part 3 to learn about resources!]

Texas Parks and Wildlife and Huston-Tillotson University are collaborating on a study to learn more about the coyotes moving into the city limits.
For further assistance, contact an Animal Protection Officer at the Austin Animal Center.
Explore ATXD6.org for Parts 1 & 3 in our Wild Wild Life Series!