Brigantine’s red foxes part of our island
BRIGANTINE – Most of the island’s summer visitors who come to the island to enjoy our beautiful beach are barely aware of the close proximity to the William Forsythe Wildlife Refuge at the north end of the island. Long-time residents know that we share this island with a wide array of wild life that managed to make it to the island – raccoons, rabbits, and the semi-reclusive red fox.
One of our more photogenic neighbors is the barrier island red fox, a genus that Brigantine has many of. Most people don’t expect to find wildlife on the island other than gulls and the occasional greenhead. But if you are walking the beach at dusk or early in the morning before sunrise, you might see a quick furtive animal go running across the beach or over the dunes. Welcome to the red fox.
Even though some summer visitors may worry about their own pets, foxes are virtually harmless to humans. They usually weigh between 8 and 15 pounds and wander alone. They generally will leave pets alone and have been viewed playing with cats in the streets. While rabid foxes have been found in Atlantic County, Brigantine has no record of a rabid fox incident on the island.
If a fox is healthy, the state does not allow animal control officers to simply trap them and move them. However, foxes have been a concern for those people who monitor endangered birds such as piping plovers. “They can eat the eggs, the chicks even the adults,” said Todd Pover, beach nesting bird project manager for the Division of Fish and Wildlife.
The red fox actually contributes to our well-being by controlling the rodent population on the island. At one point, ten years ago, the state trapped most of the island’s foxes in order to protect the piping plover. The result was an immediate increase in rats and mice on the island.
Ernie Purdy, in addition to his responsibilities as the Superintendent of Public Works, is also the island’s animal control warden. “We have had foxes on the island for 30 to 40 years. At last count we had 17 red foxes on the island. They are entirely different from the foxes in the woods as they have become domesticated. They are used to people and are curious and are looking for handouts.”
There has never been a documented case of an attack or rabies incident with foxes on the island according to Purdy. Our bigger problem is with raccoons. “With raccoons as well as foxes and feral cats, you need to take some preventive actions to keep them out of your yard. Clean your grills – they love the grease. Don’t feed them. Use garbage containers with secured lids. If you have garbage from a cook out and it might ferment over a number of days before the ACUA picks up, take it to our city yard which is open seven days a week.”
Secured garbage containers and black garbage bags are recommended for any resident or visitors to use. “Heavier is better as the gulls will tear right thru the lightweight bags,” says Purdy.
A number of local photographers have used the red fox as the subject of photo essays. Visits to some of the island’s craft fairs may give residents and visitors to take home an image of one of our more reclusive residents.