Red fox taking a snooze in the pine needles
What do foxes, voles and gardens have to do with each other? Well, foxes are great predators, and voles, moles, and mice love to eat plants, roots, and bulbs, so what if we let the foxes eat the the voles to help us in the gardens? I am lucky enough to live in an area that has lots of wildlife, including foxes, coyotes, deer, black bear, mountain lions and various small critters. We also have rabbits, mice, voles, and squirrels, none of which are welcome in my gardens.
This one is sleeping next to the window well - they are very much at home in our area, sometimes too much so. They drink out of the dog's water dish, and come up on the deck.
Voles love to eat the roots, plant stems and bulbs. They also love to reproduce, and are very prolific once they make their home in your yard. A single set of voles can create between 100 to 2000 voles per half-acre. That's an astounding number, and you wouldn't want to have it happen to you. I have seen client's yards that are covered with vole holes, vole runs, and ruined plants. Not a pleasant sight.
The foxes we have in our area are Red foxes or Vulpes vulpes, which live in most of North America, and are native to some of it, including the Rocky Mountains that I call home. Foxes are not the same as coyotes, and in general only prey on small animals such as mice, voles, moles, rabbits and such. They are omnivorous, and depending on their location feed mostly on insects, worms, mollusks, and crayfish. They are territorial in nature, and will mark their area frequently. Each year, there are new sets of baby foxes (kits) on our block. They come into the yard, and also have hunting lessons at night, when you can hear them calling to their mother, and her calls back to them. Sometimes they sound like people screaming, it is very eerie.
Short video of fox "kits" in the backyard, taken from second story window.
Creating a habitat in which the foxes are welcome is easy once you make the commitment to do so. Foxes need places to make dens and create hiding places, so don't clear cut your shrubbery or low thickets. Eliminate pesticides, herbicides and other chemicals that could harm the foxes. Don't poison the mice, moles or voles, since the foxes will ingest the poison. I have caught voles in mousetraps, and then thrown the dead vole on the ground. Usually it is picked up by the fox within an hour or so. Foxes like to chase prey, so let them do their job. Unfortunately for those of you who have domesticated rabbits and chicken, they will chase and kill those also.
Leaving understory in part of your yard is a great way to attract many types of birds and wildlife, including foxes.