Capital Beat column
It may be time for the province to consider a provincewide ban on feeding foxes.
There was a time when a fox sighting was rare on P.E.I., even though there has been a healthy fox population here for decades. However, that time is now long gone. Foxes have lost their fear of humans and are a common sight everywhere on the Island, from residential neighbourhoods to outside fast food restaurants, to golf courses.
Unfortunately, part of the problem is that people make sure there is lots of food available. If you put food out for a fox, it should be no surprise if they show up the next day. If you feed them again, they are back the next day.
A Charlottetown councillor is fed up with getting complaints about fox feeding. However David MacDonald said there is little the city can do.
MacDonald said chasing foxes is clearly not in the mandate of the municipal police department nor should it be. It falls under the jurisdiction of the Fish and Wildlife Division of the Department of Environment.
While the department does issue warnings, there is no penalty for not heeding these warnings. It should actually be common sense that it is not a good idea to feed a wild animal, but for a lot of people, that is apparently not the case.
MacDonald wants the provincial government to follow the lead of Parks Canada. That federal agency has a nationwide policy that imposes a $250 fine for anybody caught feeding foxes within its boundaries. The capital city councillor is convinced having a monetary deterrent would make a difference.
While the idea has merit, it also would incur considerable costs. Enforcing such a provincewide ban would likely require hiring additional manpower. Given the financial constraints the province is facing, that is probably not too likely.
Even if a force of “fox police” was hired, the fact is they can’t be everywhere. It is no different than a police force – no matter how many police officers you hire, they are not going to stop every crime. The public has to play a role – in the case of foxes, that role includes talking sense to people we might see putting food out.
To be sure, that interference may not always been appreciated. Nobody is suggesting risking a confrontation – that is the time to contact the Fish and Wildlife Division. Even if no charge is laid, perhaps a call or a visit from a wildlife officer would be enough for most people to change their habits.
It is a problem that has no easy answers. There is no question more education is needed, but there also has to be some penalty. That being said, there will still be people who choose to ignore common sense advice – for that minority, nothing will work except some form of deterrent. There has been little reaction from the province on the idea, but it is something that should be looked at.