The Toronto Wildlife Centre is reporting that a fox kit was found dead in the Beach area on the weekend of May 16.
The dead kit was “definitely part” of the fox family that had made a den under the Boardwalk earlier this spring, said Nathalie Karvonen, Executive Director of the Toronto Wildlife Centre (TWC).
“It was found just a few feet away from the den entrance at about 5:30 a.m. by one of the volunteers on May 16,” she told Beach Metro News in an interview on Friday, May 22.
The Toronto Wildlife Centre made people aware of the death of the fox kit in a Twitter announcement on the morning of May 22.
“Sadly a fox kit was found dead at the Beaches last weekend,” said the Toronto Wildlife Centre on its Twitter account on Friday, May 22, morning. “The wounds suggested the kit was killed by a larger predator – likely an aggressive dog since the body was left behind. Please keep your dogs on leash, avoid the den, and share the importance of respecting wildlife.”
Karvonen told Beach Metro News that the fox kit’s body was taken to the TWC to be examined and “the injuries were consistent with a large predator attack.”
She said that while there was a “possibility” it was a coyote that killed the fox kit, it was far more likely to have been an off-leash dog.
“A coyote would not have left the body. It was more likely a dog that was off leash.”
The fox family had drawn the attention of large crowds of people this spring, watching the cute kits playing together. People first became aware of the fox den in April, and it soon became a popular spot for people to watch the animals and take photos.
The fox family and its impact on Toronto residents drew international attention and was recently featured in a New York Times story.
In late April, the City of Toronto installed a barricade to help protect the fox den but it did not prove to be very effective in controlling crowds or human interactions with the animals.
In early May, the Toronto Wildlife Centre installed a much larger barrier to protect the den and also put up a fox-cam to discourage interactions.
At the time, the Toronto Wildlife Centre warned that continued interactions with humans would make the fox kits too tame and endanger their lives.
“If foxes learn to trust people, which these babies already have, their lives are in danger now and in the future. Not all people are animal lovers and some may harm or kill a fox who acts strangely. Feeding foxes or exposing young foxes to people during this important stage of development may permanently affect them. This will change their natural behaviour, and may ultimately cause their death,” said the warning.
Karvonen said that both TWC volunteers and city bylaw officers that are in the area of the fox den and the surrounding barricades have reported numerous incidents of dogs that are running off leash.
“As is often the case with human nature, when we tell people they say they are sorry and put their dog back on the leash,” she said. “But a small number of people are just jerks. Bylaw officers and our volunteers have been told by some dog owners that they just don’t care.”
TWC is asking all dog owners to please keep their dogs on the leash when they are in the area.
Karvonen said TWC volunteers can’t “cherry pick” between an old dog with cataracts and a younger, aggressive dog in this situation and want all dog owners to abide by the city’s rules regarding off leash dogs on the beach and the Boardwalk.
“We’re at a real tipping point with these foxes now,” said Karvonen.
“Soon they will be young adults, so these next few weeks are critical. We are know they are cute and people want to see them, but if you care about their survival then please leave them alone. For the next few weeks we really need people to make an effort.”
For more on the fox family in the Beach and efforts to protect them, see our earlier story at https://www.beachmetro.com/2020/05/09/bigger-barricade-fox-cam-installed-to-keep-people-from-interacting-with-fox-family-on-the-boardwalk/