Last spring I wrote about foxes that had created a den in the ditch across the road from our property. Only three of the four kits survived being so close to the road, but those three grew and thrived. That den is still occupied, and we now have a couple of foxes in a den in our Timber and a single fox that lives nearby. He comes to our orchard each afternoon to see what kind of meal he can find. We have encouraged the foxes to inhabit this area, since old regional farm wisdom tells us that foxes don’t share territory with coyotes — you have one or the other, but not both — and from my experience, it seems to be true. For the safety of our sheep and their lambs, we would much rather have foxes than coyotes — no question!
I recently got a call from our neighbor, and it seems our foxes are now under attack. One of the neighbors found herself with marauding raccoons, much as we did last summer. Instead of trapping them herself (as we did with our live trap), she asked a couple of trappers to come and do it for her. They promised to trap only the raccoons and to do it only in the waterways with marshmallows to avoid trapping our neighborhood dogs, cats, and other wildlife. Unfortunately, they lied.
In a few short days, these raccoon trappers discovered that we have resident foxes and began to set snare traps and spring traps in the ditches around our neighborhood. They wanted those fox pelts and saw no reason not to get them. All without our knowledge — at least at first.
Last week, our cats disappeared for a couple of days, and I became concerned since they don’t normally leave for such long periods. I began to worry that we had lost them. When they finally reappeared in the barn, one had a serious leg injury. This was the same day that my neighbor discovered the traps in the ditches. Was my cat injured by a trap? Hard to know for sure when the cat is feral and doesn’t like to be handled. Regardless, our neighborhood has been galvanized. None of us want to lose the foxes, and we’re committed to do whatever is necessary to save them.
As a result, we have become more acquainted with the laws that pertain to our situation. The trappers are allowed to lay traps in the county ditches, from what we’ve been told, but not within 200 yards of a driveway or home. That means that our main roadway should not contain any traps — there are too many driveways spaced too closely together. If we find traps there, we can call the DNR to remove them. Our property, however, is not necessarily protected from trapping and hunting unless posted, so I immediately bought and hung eight signs on our perimeter fencing announcing that there is NO TRESPASSING and NO HUNTING allowed. Hopefully that will keep the trappers out and allow the fox some safety when on our acreage.
Yet there is still controversy over the second roadway, since our acreage sits on a corner. According to our land deed, we own and pay taxes on all of the property from the middle of each road to the fencing we share with our neighbors. There is an easement that allows the road and utilities to come through — but it seems that if I have to pay for the ditch as my property, I should be able to deny access to individuals intent on harming the wildlife. Whether or not this is actually true is now being negotiated with the DNR representative, who is caught in the middle between our neighborhood group and the trappers. It’s a work in progress.
In the meantime, the neighbors have all come together for this common cause. I know of no one who supports the trappers in this — we are all aligned to protect the foxes who have become such a part of our neighborhood. This unfolds day by day, but I’ll keep you posted.