By Donald Wittkowski
A fox that was killed last week in Sea Isle City by a state wildlife official had been acting aggressively toward a family, according to the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection.
Larry Hajna, a DEP spokesman in Trenton, said the fox’s body has been sent to a New Jersey Department of Health laboratory for rabies testing. It will take at least a week before the test results come back.
The animal was killed Friday by an officer with the state Division of Fish and Wildlife. Hajna could not immediately say where and how the fox was killed, but noted it had shown aggressive behavior toward humans.
“The concern was that the fox had become aggressive toward a family with a toddler and had to be chased off with a shovel,” he said in an interview Monday.
For weeks, authorities have been trying to catch a mother fox and her pup that were originally mistaken for coyotes when they were spotted roaming Sea Isle’s beaches. Hajna didn’t know whether the dead fox was either the mother fox or her pup.
Authorities set traps to capture the foxes because it is believed they are suffering from mange, a skin disease caused by parasites. If caught, the animals would be taken to a wildlife rehabilitation center for treatment.
Sightings of the mother and pup originally generated false reports that they were coyotes. Sea Isle officials responded by issuing a statement on Aug. 7 assuring the public that the animals were foxes and there was no cause for alarm.
“The fox is part of the local eco-system and a natural inhabitant of New Jersey’s barrier islands,” the statement said. “The fox is a member of the canine family and poses much less of a threat to humans than a coyote; therefore, there is no cause for alarm from the public.”
In the meantime, there have been additional sightings of foxes on the beaches between 17th and 20th streets and in the north end of Sea Isle near Strathmere, city spokeswoman Katherine Custer said.
Custer also said there have been reports people have been feeding the foxes, making it more difficult for authorities to capture the animals.
“That, of course, is simply not something we want people to do,” she said. “That is counterproductive to attempts to catch the foxes.”
Custer urged anyone who sees people feeding the foxes to call Sea Isle police. City officials also want the public to stay away from any fox traps they may see.
Any fox sightings can be reported to the Sea Isle City Police Department at (609) 263-4311.