red fox toronto

Fox sightings are on the rise in Toronto now that fewer people are out on the streets

Though there's no arguing that the raccoon holds the title as the unofficial mascot of Toronto, another animal seems to be taking over the city's streets now that the human population is on lockdown indoors.

Residents have been surprised to see foxes, typically an elusive and nocturnal animal, out and about in some of what are usually the most bustling areas of the city.

Sightings have seemed to be mostly of red foxes, which are no strangers to populating urban and surburban areas of Ontario and the Northern Hemisphere at large, though the threatened gray fox also calls the province home.

Wildlife sightings in general are on the rise across Canada as businesses remain shuttered and people stay home amid official states of emergency spurred by COVID-19.

A drastic reduction in vehicle and foot traffic means that characteristically cautious creatures have been emboldened to explore urban centres — and people who have been fortunate enough to catch a rare sighting of a fox or other feral animal in downtown Toronto have been pretty excited.

As the City states on a page of its website dedicated to foxes, the animals are most active at dawn and dusk, and are known to live in woody areas, near ravines and streams, and along beaches and the lakeshore.

"If left undisturbed, foxes will sometimes make a den in residential areas, under decks or sheds or where there are a lot of bushes or shrubs," the City states.

It also warns that, like raccoons, foxes will feed on garbage and scraps  left outside, and "will be more likely to visit or look for den sites near a home where people stay indoors most of the time" — so, all of our homes right now.

The Toronto Wildlife, too, says that foxes may indeed be frequenting new areas within their own territories that are now more quiet than usual, such as schoolyards or parks, though "increases in populations are usually more dependent on food, water and shelter – not so much shifts in human activity."

The wildlife are returning to the city. Spotted at Yonge and Queens Quay. from r/toronto

Torontonians have been spotting deer, beavers, rabbits, and a slew of other strange critters around in places they wouldn't usually be hanging out — admittedly pretty harmless compared to the moose and bears spotted wandering streets and backyards in Ottawa and other parts of the country recently.

Some experts say, though, that the seemingly increased wildlife presence may simple be a matter of people being around (and bored) enough to actually see the populations that already exist, though they may be "redistributed" in more urban areas these days.

"We are probably not looking at any increase in wildlife population, but just a redistribution of the populations because there are so many areas that people are using differently or not using at all," the president of the Toronto Field Naturalists club told the Star.

"People have a lot more downtime, they are looking out of their windows now and taking time to really notice the things that are around them. We are seeing things with fresh eyes."

Cute fox spotter at Baldwin Street 🦊 from r/toronto

Toronto Animal Services agrees that with citizens of Toronto sitting around at home, looking out their windows or going out for walks, a rise in sightings may be in part a matter of perception.

The weather may also be a factor.

"This spring has been warmer and earlier than last year, and more people are at home," TAS, which responds to animal-related complaints, says.

Regardless, it's certainly interesting to see how animals are responding to less human presence and noise pollution.

As one Redditor are aptly noted in a thread about a fox seen near the Harbourfront Centre this past weekend, "between reduced pollution and wildlife coming back, it's crazy how much nicer the city is without all the people."

"We should look to change and update ourselves to a more harmonious ecological existence before looking to a world without us. Humanity can and must do better," another added.

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