City Desk

PHOTO: Fox at Hains Point!


RED ALERT! Spotted by Darrow Montgomery at Hains Point yesterday! Vulpes vulpes at the District's extremis! That's right, I'm talking about foxes! Not the kind that make you look over your sunglasses like Baby Eddie Van Halen in the "Hot for Teacher" video (appendix 1, below), the kind that have bushy tails, used to get hunted in Chevy Chase, eat squirrels, and often star as villains in Beatrix Potter books! RED FOXES! IN HAINS POINT!

"They're more common than you might think," says John Hadidian, director of urban wildlife programs at the Humane Society of the United States. When he worked for the National Park Service 15 years ago, Hadidian says, he'd occasionally get phone calls from reporters all...worked up because they'd seen foxes in D.C.

"They can live in a lot of different places," Hadidian says. "In London, they live under people's sheds. People like them."

Indeed, the U.K. has a thriving urban fox program, as evidenced by this page from the Trafford council, which in addition to a nice history of fox life in British cities, gives reasons why an American-style response to garden pests won't be undertaken in the North of England anytime soon: "Shooting is obviously not acceptable in urban areas, nor is snaring, and so only live trapping is left." (Shooting not acceptable in urban areas! You're so cute, England.)

Foxes in the District tend to stay in wooded areas, like Rock Creek Park, Hadidian says. But golf courses have their advantages, fox-wise, as well. "They're not changing all the time," he says, "and human presence is kind of limited, too." Also: "They have great sightlines."

You mean for PREY? "They're not just carnivores," says Hadidian, who seems determined to let the air out of the sensationalism I'm trying to pump up here. "Squirrels are a good part of their diet," he says, but they also eat vegetation.


This may be a fox print. It could also be a dog's. "Interesting that it looks like a cat track is next to them," says Hadidian in an e-mail.

How about Canada geese? "They could," Hadidian says, "but the thing people don't realize about foxes is even a big adult male will weigh about 15 pounds." A full-size Canada goose will weigh that much or more. (Though: Wouldn't it be Internet gold if they fought?) Foxes could go after goslings or goose eggs, Hadidian allows when pressed on the subject.

OK, so the geese are probably safe. But what about people? Surely someone blasting through Hains Point on a bike at 30 mph could fall and get eaten?

Attacks on humans are "extremely rare," Hadidian says. "They almost always involve an animal that is sick or compromised." Or fed by a human. Do not feed foxes. They might bite you.

Don't listen to overblown media reports, either. "This is mating season," Hadidian says. "So you're gonna see and hear about fox activity."

Photographs by Darrow Montgomery (except VH screengrab, which is by me)

<em>appendix 1</em>

appendix 1

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  • K

    FOXES? In MY District? "They're more common than you might think."

  • chickenbot


  • suicide_blond

    oh yes..i once saw (from the safety of my car) a red fox trailing (in a very stalkerish way mind you) a family of tourists on the National Mall (ok ok technically near the Einstein monument in front of state dept.) i wanted to shout a warning to the tourists ..but i couldnt think of an appropriate thing to shout as "WATCH OUT FOR THE FOX" seemed absurd given the traffic on constitution...

  • downtown rez

    A family of foxes has been living at haines point for at least 15 years now.

  • Ben

    Great article.

    We've also got coyotes in Rock Creek Park, and black bears just outside the city in MD and VA

  • downtown rez

    Ben's right. Not to fear-monger, and I'm a huge fan of nature, but people should keep a close eye on small pets and toddlers.

  • Just Jule

    I totally saw a fox right by your fabulous tree near the Memorial Bridge. Critters are so rad.

  • Fabulous Fox Funfest

    There are several areas of the Hains Point Golf Course that have been turned into nature preserves. Lots of brush and jaggers and thorns. You hit the ball in there, you leave it there.

    The foxes hang out in there, and keep the Canada geese under control. Ever since the foxes moved in, there are fewer geese, and far less goose shit on the greens.

    The golfers obviously love the foxes. Foxes help keep golfers shoes clean. And their balls. So to speak.