ROCHELLE – Recent fox sightings in town have many owners of small pets thinking twice about letting their house animals outside unattended.
In the last few weeks, multiple residents have commented on social media about a fox roaming around their neighborhoods, and on occasion reported attack attempts on rabbits and cats near homes. Two recent sightings in Rochelle were reported near Central School on Ninth Street and at St. Paul Church and School on 10th Avenue near 14th Street.
“I was on the phone with my mom and all of a sudden she started screaming and said the fox was right up by her porch,” local resident Bree Celine said. “It was looking right at her cat and lunged for it. Luckily she screamed to scare the fox away and got the cat inside before it was too late.”
Celine said she called local authorities and county animal control about the incident and was directed to the Illinois Department of Natural Resources. After speaking with an IDNR official, she was told private trappers would need to be hired to capture the fox.
“I just really hope that something can be done about this,” Celine said. “Because I don’t want anything to happen to anybody’s pets.”
While many people might wonder why foxes chose to come into town and how to get rid of them, local resident Emily Page believes that it is to protect their young from predators.
“I grew up on a farm and have seen this before,” Page said. “If they (foxes) are out in the wild, there is no protection from coyotes that hunt for their babies. So, the foxes go where they are protected and surrounded by people where coyotes will not go. Then, once the kits are old enough, they go back out where they are supposed to be.”
According to the IDNR, foxes are very important to the ecosystem by helping control the population of rabbits and rodents, but they can sometimes become a nuisance in communities.
The best way to prevent a fox from attacking pets is to limit the opportunities of it happening.
Preventing wildlife attacks on pets
Having a pet attacked or killed by wildlife is a traumatic experience. However, there are easy steps you can take to prevent attacks and keep your pet(s) safe.
Watch out for your pets. Keep pets inside when possible. When a pet does go outside, make sure it is on a leash or in a fenced-in yard with access to shelter. Small dogs, cats, rabbits and other domestic pets should never be left alone outside at night.
Reduce food sources. Property owners should limit the availability of unintentional food sources such as spilled bird seed, pet food, ripe fruit or trash. When these resources are available, they attract mice and other small mammals. That in turn attracts predators such as coyotes and foxes to the neighborhood.
Use a leash when going for a walk. Like any parent, wildlife will aggressively defend their young. If a coyote or fox starts following you and your dog while you are walking, you may have accidentally gotten too close to a den. Keep your dog close to you, wave your arms, throw rocks (to scare the animal away, not to injure it) and shout until the animal stops following or goes away. Find another route to walk for a few weeks.
Talk with your neighbors. Let others know if you’ve seen coyotes or foxes in the neighborhood. A coyote or fox moving through a neighborhood is not usually cause for concern. A coyote or fox that approaches people may indicate a situation that could later escalate. These animals should be driven away from homes and yards so they don’t become comfortable in these areas. Yelling, arm waving, banging pots or pans or spraying water from a hose are all ways to let the animals know they aren’t welcome in that area.
Carry an umbrella. Sometimes hawks, red-winged blackbirds or other birds will “dive bomb” people or pets. Using an umbrella will keep the bird a safe distance away from you and your pet.