are foxes dangerous

Are foxes dangerous and other things you need to know about wildlife in Toronto

With wildlife sightings on the rise in Toronto and across the country, many citizens are wondering what they might need to know about the furry neighbours they are now encountering more often while out and about, especially as the lockdown restrictions that have been in place for months gradually begin to ease.

Foxes in particular have been a common sighting in the much quieter downtown Toronto as of late, especially one specific fox family that has captured the hearts of residents in the Beaches area who have unfortunately been getting a bit too close to them.

Foxes, skunks, raccoons and even coyotes — which were spotted in the city's parks and neighbourhoods even before pandemic-induced stay-at-home orders began — are not actually especially dangerous, and as is the case with many animals, pose far less of a risk to us than we do to them.

As the Toronto Wildlife Centre says, most wild animals are elusive and skittish around people and the noise we bring, and "bites and scratches on humans are extremely rare," so long as you don't do anything ridiculous (but admittedly tempting), like try to pet them.

 Mothers protecting their babies are always an exception to this rule, though are still not likely to attack unprompted.

But, pets like cats and small dogs are definitely vulnerable to becoming a meal if left to roam unattended in close vicinity to a fox or coyote (and can of course fall victim to a skunk's spray, which is no fun for anyone).

Keeping pets on a leash and away from feral creatures, such the baby foxes under the boardwalk in Toronto, is also key to the wild animals' own survival, as they shouldn't lose their instinctual fear of dogs and people despite now braving new, usually bustling areas of the city centre. (Toronto's notoriously sociable raccoons may be too far gone by this point, but it sure doesn't hurt to give them space and leave them be).

Bats are another animal that residents may have been spotting more often now that the city is calmer and people have actually had the time and undivided attention to notice them.

Many experts agree that bats are in fact just sky puppies, with the TWC calling them "interesting and nonthreatening creatures" that are actually very at risk in the city due to things like habitat loss, disease and "persecution" by humans who keep associating them with terrifying, blood-sucking vampires that nightmares are made of.

Though snakes may be a tad less cuddly than bats to some, they've faced the same problem of being judged before humans get to know them.

There is only one native species of snake in the GTA that is venomous, and it is found up north along Georgian Bay, not in Toronto (also, its populations are dwindling), so the reptiles don't pose any danger, if you happen to run into them. They also tend to avoid interactions with people at all costs.

A good rule of thumb when coming across any wildlife is to keep your distance, don't stop to feed or harass them, and generally just leave them alone and carry on as usual (unless you believe they need help, in which case, call an authority like the TWC).

Experts do recommend helping local animal populations out by planting biodiverse gardens as opposed to manicured lawns, using decals on windows and reflective surfaces to prevent birds from flying into them, keeping cats indoors (for their safety, too), avoiding the use of pesticides and other chemicals in outdoor spaces and even leaving clean water out for critters like skunks, rabbits and raccoons if you feel so inclined.

Installing vent covers, chimney caps, and making sure roofs aren't damaged enough for a squirrel family to call them home are among other tips that groups like TWC advise heeding.

All this being said, there is one wild critter with absolutely zero cute or redeeming qualities that you may want to be warier of than others this summer, if they make their way over: the murder hornets.

Lead photo by

Brian Carson

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