Red Fox Sightings Increasing on Ocean City Beaches
The predators have been seen at dawn and dusk in the dunes near Corson's Inlet, 34th Street and in the Gardens.
A growing number of residents have seen red foxes on the beach in Ocean City this summer.
Police even asked a state conservation officer to investigate earlier this year, due to the large number of calls they were getting from residents.
The state sent a conservation officer out to the area near 34th Street and the beach, one of the recent hotspots for sightings.
Doug Ely concluded there was nothing to worry about: the foxes were just being foxes, foraging for food among the dunes and along the beach, not presenting any sort of a problem for people or their pets.
Ocean City Police Captain Jay Prettyman said Friday that Ely even provided residents with a tutorial on red foxes to help assure residents that there is nothing to worry about.
Foxes have long been evident on the southern end of Ocean City, where thousands of acres of marshland—ideal habitat for foxes—are protected by Corson’s Inlet State Park.
But recent set sightings have centered around 34th Street and in the Garden’s section, not far from the bridge and causeway connecting Ocean City to Longport and the mainland community of Somers Point.
Both locations are heavy on housing separated from the beach by healthy dune systems.
Christina Kisiel, a state wildlife biologist, said while the sightings may be new, there’s nothing unusual about foxes being in either location: foxes have had dens at 34th Street and the Gardens for at least the 10 years she’s studied beach-nesting birds.
The reason red fox are here in the first place is because settlers brought them over from Europe to hunt for their rich red fur.
And literally being “as smart as a fox,” the highly adaptive animals have not just survived, but thrived, exploiting all sorts of habitat, including the dunes of most barrier islands, Kisiel said.
She said foxes survive by eating birds as big as brant, which are about the size of a chicken, rabbits, fish and very abundant voles.
An omnivore, they’ll also eat beach plums and other fruit or vegetables, scraps left by fishermen, garbage or pet food that is left outside. They have been known to prey on kittens.
Kisiel, who lives in Ocean City, said fox sightings are not common because they are most active at dusk or dawn and through the night. “They keep a low profile,” said the non-game and endangered species biologist.
She said while foxes have the potential to carry rabies and other diseases such as mange, she has not heard of any outbreaks lately.
Susie and Jim England of Ocean City have seen as many as three foxes at a time on the beach in the Gardens.
Jim England said they’ve seen foxes “five or six times.”
He also said toll takers on the Ocean City-Longport bridge have said they have seen adult foxes come across the bridge into Ocean City in the early morning hours.
Summer residents Sarah Kopp and her father, Jeff, saw a fox on the beach in the Gardens last week. It trotted off toward the inlet after Sarah, her sister and cousin shouted at it.
I went out Friday morning to the beach where the Kopps and Englands had seen the fox and found a lone fox walking swiftly toward me along the beach.
The animal carried a large white flip-flop in its mouth.
The fox, attracted by either scent or movement, set the flip-flop down.
The animal stalked inland toward me, spinning about at one point before lunging and pinning something that it then ate.
After that, the animal turned, faced me, stared for a momement, then went back to the flip-flop, which it picked up and carried into the dunes about 25 feet from where I stood.
I walked to the dunes: it had silently disappeared, just like a sly fox, leaving behind only pawprints.
Average life span in the wild: 2 to 4 years
Size: Head and body, 18 to 33.75 in. ; Tail, 12 to 21.75 in.
Weight: 6.5 to 24 lbs.
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