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Wildlife expert calms fears over daytime fox sightings

Posted at 11:21 PM, Feb 20, 2019
and last updated 2019-02-21 07:32:30-05

CHESTERFIELD, Va. -- Neighbors living in Central Virginia are reporting an increasing number of daytime fox sightings.

Melissa Stanley, Executive Director and Founder of the Richmond Wildlife Center, said she's recently received numerous calls from concerned residents about the primarily nocturnal animal.

Those sightings have been in Chesterfield and Henrico counties.

"Seeing foxes during the daytime is not a surprise to me because they have to go out and hunt more often to feed their young," Stanley explained. "The public tends to forget every time you walk out your door -- you’re in the wild."

Late Winter and Springtime is considered denning season for the red fox.

"A litter of four to seven pups is born in a den in late March or early April. The male may bring food to the den until the female can leave the pups a short time, then they both hunt. They remain with the pups until dispersal. They are generally nocturnal and non-migratory, and usually use the same area for life," according to the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries website.

Nextdoor app users reported spotting a red fox that appeared to be sick near Park Avenue and West Franklin Street in the Willow Lawn neighborhood.

Some feared a daytime fox sighting could mean the animal is rabid. A notion Stanley dismissed as a myth.

"It’s normal behavior [to] see them during the day because they have all of those mouths to feed," Stanley stated. "What concerns me is when I get the phone calls saying they're seeing foxes with mange."

Mange is a skin disease caused by parasitic mites. Stanley warned families to stay clear of all wildlife and not to feed the animals.

She urged anyone who spotted a sick fox to call a wildlife center instead of attempting to rectify the situation themselves.

"My biggest problem is people getting on Google, going and finding a drug, and trying to throw it out," Stanley stated. "We don’t want them to treat these animals by throwing bait out."

Stanley said trapping laws have changed slightly to allow individuals to catch foxes.

She emphasized anyone who wanted to help a sick or injured animal to first call a rehabilitation wildlife center - like Richmond Animal Center - in advance to set up a bait trap.