European red foxes are widespread in Victoria and have been present in inner Melbourne since the 1930s. They are typically shy and timid but have adapted to become an established part of suburbia. Foxes can be known to harass domestic animals, eat pet food, raid rubbish bins, defecate or dig in gardens, and chew infrastructure.
Foxes prey upon native and domesticated animals. A mature fox is capable of killing up to 3,000 animals a year including native wildlife, domestic fowl, livestock and pets. They can also spread parasites and diseases such as mange and distemper to domestic animals and pets.
What to do if you spot a fox?
Reporting your fox sighting:
- Report fox sightings on the Feralscan website.
- Recordings will contribute to the collection of data on fox locations and hot spots, which will assist to inform the Australian Pest Animal Strategy. Please understand, reported fox sightings will not result in the control of or removal of a sighted fox in that area.
Foxes on your own/neighbour's property:
- It is the responsibility of the landowner to take all reasonable steps to prevent the spread of and control fox activity on their property.
- Possible controls/actions
- Your property - Try using animal deterrent scents or installing movement sensor ultrasonic noise devices or a movement sensor water sprinkler. Otherwise, contact a pest controller to have the fox removed. Additional information can be found on Australian Pest Animal Strategy.
- Your neighbour's property - Speak to the neighbour about your observations. Direct them to this page for information.
Signs of fox activity
Apart from seeing a fox in your garden at dusk, dawn or during the night, there are the signs of fox activity to look out for.
- A pungent, musky smell (or fox smell) around your house or in your garden
- Droppings in prominent places such as garden furniture and on shoes left outside
- Trampled plants
- Chewed up shoes or toys
- Presence of dead birds (including chickens) with wounds to the head and neck region.
- Damage to fences, wire mesh, hose pipes, polythene tunnels
- Overturned rubbish bins with rubbish strewn about
- Your garden looking like a freshly ploughed field. Foxes will dig up entire gardens if there is an abundance of grubs.
Preventing fox activity
It is more effective to eliminate the attraction to foxes to be around your property than trying to remove the foxes.
Foxes forage around rubbish bins, picnic sites and compost bins. They also feed on fruit, pet food left outside and are known to prey on small animals.
Discouraging foxes from your property
- Never feed foxes or treat them as domesticated animals
- Clean up food scraps, pet food left outside and excess fruit dropped by fruit trees
- Lock up chickens, ducks, guinea pigs and pet rabbits in in secure, roofed coops, particularly at night. If a roofed coop is not possible, use 1.5 metres high fences with an outward facing flexible or rigid overhang to prevent foxes scaling the fence. Wire netting should be either buried at least 450 mm underground or attached to a concrete or wooden floor to prevent red foxes digging under the coop fence. The wire fence and roof netting needs to be at least 0.9 mm gauge with the mesh size no larger than 40–50 mm to prevent red foxes pushing through into the coop. Remove anything that foxes could use to hide when sneaking up on chickens. This includes tall grass, junk, machinery and timber
- Always cover your compost heap or use a compost bin
- Remove blackberry and other weed thickets, which provide cover for foxes
- Contact a pest exterminator to remove fox dens if you discover any on your property
- Do not leave food out for wildlife
- Do not leave objects for foxes to climb over onto neighbouring properties
- Restrict access to underneath the house
- Remove rubbish lying around and secure bin lids
- If you see a fox in the area, let your neighbours know so they can take action.
Controlling fox activity
In urban areas, baiting, trapping and shooting foxes are not appropriate control methods as it is impossible to be sure that no other domestic animals or wildlife would be inadvertently affected. Baiting and shooting are prohibited due to the potential poisoning of domestic/wild animals and the risk associated with the possibility of shooting a person or domestic/wild animal in urban areas. Trapping is labour intensive and foxes will quickly re-invade from surrounding areas, therefore it is not a cost-effective or appropraite technique. Foxes are a highly mobile and well adapted species, making them difficult to control as they will re-invade an area soon after control efforts are taken.
Foxes are a declared pest
Foxes have been declared as established pest animals under the Catchment and Land Protection Act (1994). Under this law, you are legally responsible to take all reasonable steps to prevent the spread of, and as far as possible, remove foxes from your property.
Foxes are common in urban environments and they have a higher population density than in rural areas. They are highly mobile and can travel up to 10 – 15 km per night.
Foxes can have a number of dens or hiding places at different times during the day and may not regularly return to any one den. The dens may be under houses, sheds, outbuildings or in hollow logs, rock piles, drainpipes, car bodies, under vegetation patches. In fact, foxes may be living in your backyard or garage without you knowing it. They are nocturnal and most active during the evening and early morning. They are also timid and will flee when disturbed.
They are not associated with transmission of disease in humans and do not present a significant public health issue.
More information about foxes: