For the past few years, the Jardin botanique de Montréal has been home to a growing number of red foxes — Vulpes vulpes.
Surprising, you say? It shouldn’t be. The red fox is a species of canine (therefore, a relative of the dog) that is opportunistic and frequents a range of environments. It is happy enough in the countryside, but it is equally comfortable in the city, where there is plenty to eat: pigeons, squirrels, mice, rabbits, even domestic cats (one more reason to keep kitty inside). It can be found in many of the world’s major cities, such as Paris.
The Garden’s wild foxes are very useful, as they exert considerable predatory pressure on several animals that eat and destroy our plants. Our horticulturists and botanists are lucky to have such an ally!
Too many admirers...
However, the problem is not with the animals, but with the humans! It is essential to protect these animals and ensure that they preserve their instinctive fear of people. Unfortunately, well-intentioned but ill-informed citizens have tried to feed and pet them. Photographers getting too close to the habitat and people bringing food have created a dynamic that is completely unnatural for these animals.
The cubs are particularly vulnerable because they are quick to lose their inhibitions, to the point where they may attempt to snatch a piece of someone’s sandwich... taking a piece of their finger with it. On the one hand, the foxes could become dependent or eat something that makes them sick; on the other, they could carry diseases, including rabies.
Respect their true nature
These days, with biodiversity such a hot-button issue, it is all the more important to respect wild animals and not feed them. They must be left alone and not feel harassed by people who want a better picture or to who try to tame them — especially at such a busy site like the Jardin botanique de Montréal, one of the largest in the world and host to over 900,000 visitors per year.
We at the Montréal Space for Life care about the health and wellbeing of the animals and the people that share this space, and we believe that both can live side-by-side peacefully.
Observe from a distance: Yes. Interact and feed: No.