WESTFIELD, NJ — A four-legged creature with pointy ears, thinning red-brown fur and a white-tipped tail has been making its way through the municipality prompting numerous reports on social media.
On Thursday, a resident of Boulevard posted a video of the animal walking up to her front door to the neighborhood security application Neighbors App by Ring.com. “Looks like a coyote on Boulevard in Westfield,” said the resident in the posting. While the four-legged creature does bear a resemblance to a coyote, it is likely a fox with mange, which causes hair loss.
So what should the public do?
“Just seeing a fox, or even possibly a coyote, is not cause by itself for concern,” the town’s health department states in a factsheet posted to its website. “Over the past few years, these animal populations have grown and can be found throughout NJ. It is important to remember that both fox and coyote have adapted to live quite well in the suburbs and even alongside humans.”
The Westfield Regional Health Department says the animals are not normally aggressive and provides the following tips for residents to make their properties less appealing to creatures.
- Do not feed wild animals
- Ensure all trash is placed in a receptacle with a tight-fitting lid
- Do not leave food for pets outdoors
- Ensure all bird feeders are maintained and tidy
- Install a motion sensor light in your yard
“Anytime an animal appears sick, aggressive or injured, residents should call the local police department who will contact animal control,” the health department FAQ states. “If an animal has not moved from a certain location or has been circling an area for a while animal control should be contacted.”
Residents are asked to immediately notify police after an encounter with an aggressive or possibly rabid animal and to, if possible, keep an eye on the creature so the police know where to find it when they arrive.
John Victor Jacobson, a Clark resident and area wildlife videographer with extensive knowledge of foxes' habits quickly identified the animal in the Westfield homeowner’s video as a fox with mange and said the fox has little chance of living past winter.
“The fact that it’s coming up to people’s doors means that it’s in desperate shape,” said Jacobson, 62. “And it’s probably not going to live much longer unless it gets some help.”
If members of the public find the most recent four-legged mammal familiar, it is because it is not the first time a fox with the disease known as mange has appeared in Westfield.
Last year, Westfield residents sought to heal an ailing fox, which likely had mange, even going so far as to purchase medication for the treatment of the skin disease, which has parasitic mites that cause severe itching, hair loss and the formation of scabs and lesions.
Sarcoptic mange is thought to be the largest killer of both red foxes in coyotes in New Jersey, the state Division of Fish and Wildlife reports. While almost all foxes may have a few mange bites, weak and distressed foxes — such as the young and old — are most susceptible to the disease.
“Gray foxes don’t have a problem with mange,” the state Department of Environmental Protection says. “Domestic dogs can get mange by contact with an infected animal but are of course easily treated. Treatment of wild animals is difficult and not advised.”
Email Staff Writer Matt Kadosh at firstname.lastname@example.org; Follow him on Twitter: @MattKadosh