Fox sightings in Ocean City

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Humane society traps some, but says they stay on the island and aren’t harmed

A fox relaxes on a dune in the Gardens section of Ocean City. Sightings of the animals are common this time of year, but officials with the Humane Society say the animals are not aggressive. /photo by Bill Barlow A fox relaxes on a dune in the Gardens section of Ocean City. Sightings of the animals are common this time of year, but officials with the Humane Society say the animals are not aggressive. /photo by Bill Barlow OCEAN CITY — There are wild carnivores loose in Ocean City.

From the Gardens to Corson’s Inlet and everywhere in between, residents and visitors have spotted the whisk of a red tail in the morning, or a fox caught in the headlights at night.

The reactions have been widely divergent.

As a fox made its way through the dunes off Waverly Boulevard, a woman said with apparent pride that there is a whole family of the animals in the neighborhood. At the other end of town, a southend resident said she worried about bringing her groceries in from the car after dark after seeing a fox.

She needn’t worry, according to Bill Hollingsworth, the executive director of the Ocean City Humane Society, which holds the animal control contract for Ocean City. He said the breeding population of foxes in Ocean City has shown no sign of aggressive behavior. However, many have gotten used to being fed, and so may not be very wary of approaching people, or else they are juveniles.

“They just want to play,” he said.

There are  numerous stories about what’s happening with the foxes of Ocean City, but according to Hollingsworth, for the most part the city is happy to leave them be.

The Humane Society, which also runs a no-kill animal shelter in town, takes care of wildlife control for the city, Hollingsworth said. That includes trapping raccoons and foxes when there is a problem.

But under state law, wild animals cannot be relocated outside of town, except in cases in which a licensed rehabilitation center is willing to accept the animal. There is good reason for that, he said.

“We don’t have rabies in Ocean City, as far as we know,” he said. The city would not want to have animals relocated onto the island from another community where there could be rabies, and other communities would not want Ocean City’s wildlife released in their neighborhoods.

But he declined to say where, exactly, the trapped animals are relocated in the city. He said they try to find a place where there are no other active fox dens nearby.

A bicyclist passes a fox on Waverly Boulevard. A bicyclist passes a fox on Waverly Boulevard. /photo by Bill Barlow He said the society will trap fox if they are in an area where construction is about to happen, or if they are somewhere they could be cornered.

According to Hollingsworth, there are also opossum in the city, and occasionally deer come across from Upper Township. He has not seen many skunks, or any coyote, which are becoming more common on the mainland of Cape MayCounty. One reason coyotes have not entered the island, he suggested, is the healthy fox population, which competes for the same food. Foxes also eat the mice on the sand dunes, keeping that population down, he said.

About every June, the city hears an increase in complaints about foxes, Hollingsworth said, as the young animals leave the den. Some are active during the day, which is not unusual or a sign of a problem, he said.

Later in the summer, the animals have usually learned to steer clear of people, he said, so the number of sightings and complaints drops.

A pair of foxes on the road in Ocean City. According to the Ocean City Humane Society, they can be active during the day, but should not be fed or else they get too used to people. /photo by Bill Barlow A pair of foxes on the road in Ocean City. According to the Ocean City Humane Society, they can be active during the day, but should not be fed or else they get too used to people. /photo by Bill Barlow The biggest issue is people feeding the animals, he said.

“They are creating a problem. The foxes think everybody’s like that,” Hollingsworth said. “We’d rather keep the wildlife wild.”

It’s impossible to know how many foxes live in the city. Hollingsworth said that after Hurricane Sandy, they knew there were three active dens on the island, and now there are four or five dens throughout the island.

Users of the Ocean City Dog Park at 45th Street have gotten used to seeing the resident foxes of the thick tangle of cedar trees nearby, and other neighborhoods have their own animals prowling the dunes and lawns.

According to Hollingsworth, anyone with questions or concerns can call the animal shelter at 609-398-9500. The Humane Society has an adoption center at 1 Shelter Road, off of Tennessee Avenue.

“We try to do what’s best for the animals,” Hollingsworth said. “We have to balance that with the community’s health and safety.” 


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