Kindness to Red Foxes Misplaced

From The Park Bench Newsletter – Summer 2021 – City of Charlottetown

Photo Credit – Jordi Seger


It seems normal that people were intrigued and excited by a high urban red fox population in Charlottetown a mere five years ago. Each sighting was a highlight, and fox kits at a den were like little puppies, playing with each other and, oh, so cute! Rare silver foxes were reported. People were also kind and believed they should provide food for foxes that might otherwise go hungry. Perhaps they did not believe that the fox could find natural foods for itself and its pups; foods such as fruit and berries, worms, grasshoppers, moths attracted to street lamps, mice, voles, and even rats, all found within the city. Indeed, people put out food for the red fox, treats as grand as raw steak and cooked meats, and as unnatural as sugary donuts, bread and hotdogs. With this extra feeding, foxes were living in unnaturally high densities in the downtown, and throughout the wider urban area. Biologists predicted that disease would spread quickly through this closely packed fox population. The word “pandemic” comes to mind.

Unfortunately, disease did strike as predicted. In December 2017, the first fox infected with mange was confirmed in Charlottetown. Mange is a cruel disease and anyone who has seen a sick, mangy fox with a bare tail, scabby skin and eyes crusted shut, does not want to see another one. The mite Sarcoptes scabiei, burrows into the skin of the fox and causes it to scratch incessantly, to the point where it stops hunting. In winter, loss of fur speeds death. In summer, a female can spread mange to all its pups with fatal results. Sarcoptic mange reduced the fox population in Charlottetown to the point that they were rarely sighted by urban residents.

Mange is still present, but as the red fox population recovers, should we hope that they will return to the previous situation, jam-packed in a few city blocks? There are many reasons to hope not. Consider a low density fox population that is not fed by people. These foxes will be healthier when left to consume natural foods, and a low density population will be less susceptible to disease. They may have a better immune system. Fox pups that were previously fed from cars will learn to hunt natural foods and will be more likely to survive. They will be less likely to suffer a collision with a car, a common cause of pup mortality.

For humans and their pets, living in close proximity to the red fox is not always a positive experience. The fox carries several parasites that transmit to domestic dogs, especially dogs that may consume fox feces. Besides mange, the worst of these may be two species of lungworms that often occur together and can cause breathing problems in dogs, described as equivalent to severe chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) in humans.

People encouraging a high density fox population through feeding is risky business. Risky for a fox as it may contract diseases (Many biologists believe “A fed fox is a dead fox”). Risky for dogs that are highly likely to catch a parasite from a fox. Feeding a fox may seem like an act of kindness but it can backfire if it supports several fox families in a small area, allowing disease to transmit more readily. Let’s allow wild foxes to find their own food, and appreciate them for their ecological services in rodent control. We must stop treating them like pets. To be kind to foxes, please don’t feed them!


Article by: Rosemary Curley, Nature PEI.

Photo Credit – Jordi Seger
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Upcoming Birding Walk – Saturday June 5, 2021


Birding Walk with Dwaine Oakley.

Take a walk around Allisary Creek to see (and hear!) the great variety of birds that a wetland habitat has to offer. Bring binoculars and your favourite bird guide, if you have them. 

Location: Pigot’s Trail, Mount Stewart

Date: Saturday, June 5, 2021 Time: 7am

Meet in the parking lot at the end of Allisary Creek Lane

People can register by sending an email to Nicole Murtagh,

Barred Owl – photo by Ian Scott


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June 2021 Meeting – New Brunswick Bound with Don and Glenda McLelland 

Nature PEI’s upcoming meeting will feature a presentation on the many natural wonders of New Brunswick through the eyes of avid local naturalists Don and Glenda McLelland.   They will take us on a photographic journey from the Sackville Waterfowl Park all the way to Minister’s Island for a trip across the ocean floor.  Along the way we will visit the Johnson’s Mills Shorebird Reserve, the famous Tidal Bore, Hopewell Rocks, the Artist’s Garden and Fundy National Park.  Don notes that the one fascinating feature that  these areas have in common is the highest tides in the world – up to 36 feet at Hopewell Rocks.  This is a great opportunity to take a virtual trip off Island and to find lots of ideas for planning your own future trip. 

You do need to reserve your seat.

Event: New Brunswick Bound with Don and Glenda McLelland 

Date and Time: 7:30 pm, Tuesday, June 1, 2021.

Location: Beaconsfield, the Carriage House, corner of West and Kent Street, Charlottetown

Facebook Live event link. 

Please note that due to COVID-19 restrictions, all participants must pre-register by contacting Connie Gaudet (to make sure that I don’t misplace your email, please send a separate message with “Nature PEI May meeting registration” in the subject line).  You should receive a confirmation of your registration within a day or two. Due to limited seating, preference will be given to members. 

Participants must enter the Carriage House via the front door, provide their contact information and apply hand sanitizer which is supplied; respect the two-metre social distance rule; wear a face mask that covers the mouth and nose.

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May Meeting 2021 — Dr. David Cairns 

Tuesday May 4, 2021 – The Invention of Polar Bears and the Spoiling of the Great Arctic Party – Dr. David Cairns will be Nature PEI’s guest speaker with his presentation on polar bears which evolved an eye-blink ago in geologic time. His presentation recounts what happened when they arrived in an unsuspecting and unprepared Arctic world. Meeting starts at 7:30 pm at Beaconsfield, the Carriage House, corner of West and Kent Street, Charlottetown.

This meeting is currently at capacity with pre-registrations but it will be broadcast via Facebook Live starting at 7:30 pm. It will be available here.

Dates and Time: All meetings start at 7:30 pm, on the first Tuesday of the month.

Location: Beaconsfield, the Carriage House, corner of West and Kent Street, Charlottetown.   

Please note that due to COVID-19 restrictions, all participants must pre-register by Contacting Connie Gaudet.  Carriage House seating is much more limited now (we can have up to 37 people sitting in 2s, 3s & 4s).  and we ask that when pre-registering participants advise whether they will be attending as an individual or as part of a household group so the seating can be set up properly.  Due to limited seating, preference will be given to members. 

Participants must enter the Carriage House via the front door, provide their contact information and apply hand sanitizer which is supplied; respect the two-metre social distance rule; wear a face mask that covers the mouth and nose. When the presentation is ended, participants must follow instructions on queuing up to allow exit by the side door. General restrictions for entry are also in effect regarding health and travel status. 

COVID-19 GUIDELINES FOR GATHERINGS:

  • Attendance for contact-tracing purposes will be taken on site.
  • Physical distance of 2 metres with individuals who are not part of one’s household must be maintained.
  • Wearing a non-medical mask is strongly recommended.
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Hillsborough River Assoc. AGM — April 13, 2021

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Monthly Meeting – April 6, 2021


Tuesday Apr. 6, 2021 – A Basic Introduction to Identifying Gulls on PEI– Donna Martin will be Nature PEI’s guest speaker with her presentation on identifying the Island’s gulls. Meeting starts at 7:30 pm at Beaconsfield, the Carriage House, corner of West and Kent Street, Charlottetown. To address COVID-19 needs, pre-registration is essential. Contact Connie Gaudet to register.

To address COVID-19 needs, preregistration is essential. Contact Connie Gaudet at conniefairmont@gmail.com to register.

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Friday – March 26, 2021, Invasive Species Council workshop

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Island Wings Colouring Book

Island Wings a colouring book produced by Nature PEI is available for download and suitable for printing as individual colouring sheets; the book is a creative way for families to learn more about the birds around them and have fun doing it.

The description of the birds also includes a link to more material on iNaturalist a top site for citizen science and learning.

Check out the colouring book Island Wings.

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March Meeting — Update

Due to the current public health restrictions the March meeting for Nature PEI has been cancelled.

Stay safe.

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Great Backyard Bird Count

The Great Backyard Bird Count started on Feb. 12th and runs to Feb. 15th. This free 4-day annual event allows bird watchers to contribute their sightings be it in their backyard or on a field trip. The GBBC creates a real-time snapshot of where the birds are. Anyone can participate, from beginners to experts. You can count for as little as 15 minutes on a single day, or for as long as you like each day of the event. It’s free, fun, and easy – and it helps the birds See http://gbbc.birdcount.org/

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