foxes in toronto

Volunteers to stop protecting family of foxes in Toronto after threats and verbal abuse

The Toronto Wildlife Centre says volunteers will stop protecting a family of foxes living under the boardwalk at Woodbine Beach following several instances of hostility, threats and verbal abuse from community members. 

Over the past month, 58 volunteers have contributed close to 1,500 hours of time protecting the mother fox and her kits, who've been in grave danger due to the number of people that have approached the foxes, taken their photos and allowed their dogs to approach the animals in recent weeks. 

More than two weeks ago, one of the baby foxes was found dead by a TWC volunteer showing up for her pre-dawn shift, and the wounds suggested the kit was likely killed by someone's dog. 

Volunteers have continiously asked people to leave the family alone and performed "aversive conditioning" to help the foxes relearn their necessary fear of people, but TWC says many volunteers have experienced hostility from residents during their time working with the foxes, and two volunteers received serious threats of physical violence.

In one instance, TWC says a man told a volunteer "if he had a knife he would stab her." And in another, more recent incident, a man actually went after a teenage volunteer with a knife.

TWC says the safety and well-being of their volunteers is paramount and, as a result, they've made the difficult decision to conclude the presence of volunteers on-site.

Thankfully, this comes at a time when the young foxes are becoming more independent and more capable of surviving on their own. 

"The young foxes at Woodbine Beach are reaching a more independent age, and they're venturing farther from the den, sometimes on their own," TWC wrote in a Facebook post Monday. 

"The aversive conditioning our dedicated volunteers have been practicing has had an effect on the kits and helped encourage them to avoid people more than they were before we arrived on scene. They're practicing hunting on their own, as well as on animals their parents bring them. The fox kits are older and soon they will be moving on – and it's time for TWC's volunteers to move on too."

Still, TWC continues to urge the public to help protect the family of foxes by giving them space and keeping dogs leashed and far from the den. 

"We're now turning to compassionate members of the community and anyone else who visits the Woodbine Beach area to provide the best environment for the beloved fox family. Keep dogs leashed and far away from the wild animals, since dogs and their close cousins coyotes are predators to foxes – habituation to a major predator could lead to another fox's death," they wrote. 

"Please do not approach them, and it is critically important to never feed them. Feeding of wild animals changes their behaviour and causes them to become tame, which can be fatal. Lead by example and encourage your neighbours and fellow dog-walkers to do the same – and please spread the word!" TWC continued.

"We will continue to do what we can to help the fox family, such as working with the city on signage and continuing to try and educate the public. But it's up to everyone now to ensure their long-term survival."

Lead photo by

Randall C Willis

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