Foxes are beautiful animals, but they can become a nuisance in your garden in both cities, towns and rural areas.
Foxes do sometimes dig up lawns in search of grubs. You can tell it’s a fox by the shrieking at night, and the strong musky odor they leave behind to scent their territory. You can set up a wildlife cam to catch them in the act, as they may also steal toys left in the yard as souvenirs.
So let’s consider in greater detail when and where foxes come out, what signs to look for on your lawn and in your flower beds – and how you can deter them for entering your yard in the first place (and stop them coming back again).
What Signs Show Foxes Have Been Digging Up My Garden? (Not Another Animal)
While foxes may be adorably tricksy bundles of gorgeous fur, you may not want them in your garden.
Foxes, like dogs, are omnivores. They eat everything. Like your cats, they can climb trees and their claws retract. Foxes have padded feet, like cats. The typical fox life span is three years, although some live up to 10 years.
Fox families are called skulks, or a leash. Female foxes (vixens) can have up to 11 pups at a time. Male foxes are called dogs, tods or reynards. Fox families live in dens – yup, fox holes. Foxes can make an amazing range of sounds – up to 40 different ones! They shriek, scream, howl, bark, yelp, and yip.
Foxes love to play and will steal toys left in the yard. They have extremely sharp hearing. Experts say that a fox can hear a watch ticking from over a hundred feet away. Foxes use the Earth’s magnetic field to locate prey.
Humans have steadily encroached natural fox habitat. In response, foxes have – moved to the suburbs. Urban foxes live longer than their country cousins.
If you have something digging in your garden, how to tell if it’s a fox?
Foxes are territorial animals. Like many animals – even cats and dogs – foxes mark their territory. Unlike cats and dogs, the fox odor is extremely pungent. Foxes has scent glands like skunks but less eye-watering. If a fox has moved into your garden, the strong musky odor may be your first tip off.
If it’s a fox, you may have dead-of-the-night or sunset howling, yipping and shrieking. Your kid’s toys may go missing from the backyard. Try installing a wildlife cam at that dug-up spot on your lawn. Foxes dig up lawns for the grubs living there.
In many ways, having foxes in your garden is a good sign. It’s a sign that you are an organic gardener who fertilizes with blood, bone or fish meal. You probably have a compost bin.
You feed birds and (sometimes) bunnies. You grow vegetables and fruits. You till dirt. Beloved pets are buried in your backyard (yes, foxes can smell them). Your dog leaves their rawhide chews outside.
Your garden is natural – a rewilded or “ungarden” garden. You may have a water feature or a chicken coop. You have a home-made gardening shed and plant habitat gardens.
Congratulations on being a natural gardener – foxes are going to love you!
Do Foxes Dig Up Flower Beds & Pot Plants?
Well, yes. Foxes hunt for grubs and earthworms. Grubs and worms are high calorie, high protein meals. Foxes will dig up lawns when they have to but prefer hunting for grubs and earthworms where the dirt is moist and tilled – in your garden beds.
Foxes also plan for the future by burying food in caches. A fox will hunt for food opportunistically, eat its fill and then cache the rest. Foxes will bury eggs, dead bunnies, grubs, worms, dead voles, fruit, dead mice, caterpillars, bits off a dead deer, birds, bugs, vegetables, crabs and frogs.
Don’t worry – foxes usually return for their spoils within a day or two.
Often, garden beds are irrigated. Foxes love to chew through watering system lines for water. Foxes are omnivorous. They will appreciate your delicious garden fruits – like many other wild animals.
Foxes also love early spring bulbs and leeks, either in a garden or in a pot. Sometimes, it’s not the flowers they are after, but the worms. Foxes will leave pots empty, flowers strewn everywhere, simply looking for tasty worms.
Ever had a dog dig up your freshly planted rose bushes? Foxes are the same way. They love to dig where you do – for the fun of it…
What Time Do Foxes Come Out? (And Will They Keep Coming Back?)
Foxes are mostly nocturnal, like cats, bats, hedgehogs, raccoon, owls, mice, coyotes, rats, and beavers. Sometimes, if they feel safe, they go out at sundown and sunrise. Fox pups (kits) are sometimes spotted playing during the day.
Foxes are solitary hunters, but they like to stick close to their families. Foxes are monogamous. Kits are usually born in March or April. Both adults share the responsibility of rearing the young. Kits may explore outside the den (or earth) at around a month old. By September, they will leave their parents.
The number one goal for all wildlife is survival. If foxes find a source of food, water, and shelter in your garden, they will come back.
How Do I Stop Foxes Digging Up My Lawn?
If foxes become obnoxious diggers in your garden, there are some things you can try. Maybe they will work. No guarantees, though. Foxes are clever.
Foxes, like all wild animals, like to feel safe. Relaxed. There are ways to disturb them, so they will go elsewhere.
To disturb them, experts suggest: blocking them where they come and go. This is much harder than it seems. Foxes are agile and small. They can go through many welded wire fences, can easily scale 6-foot fences – some can even climb trees.
To find out where foxes are coming and going you could try a wildlife cam. Enlist your kids and take turns at a window for a Saturday night “find the fox” game. Search out places in your yard for potential pathways. Then, disrupt the fox’s path with chicken wire or netting. Your disruption is temporary – only until the fox is thwarted and goes elsewhere.
Gather toys at night and cover water sources with a tarp. If you feed animals outside (dogs, cats, bunnies), put away the food at night. Leave a radio on softly in the yard or garden shed.
Foxes are digging up your yard for the grubs there. Try using nematodes or another natural method to get rid of the grubs.
There are many natural, non-toxic animal repellents. Sometimes the bark is worse than the bite, but you can try coyote urine spray or another predator urine spray.
There are some other clever deterrents you can buy. Try a motion detector activated sprinkler. Or one that sends out ultrasonic pulses. Try rolls of prickly plastic spikes, laid down in your garden or lawn. Another motion sensor device blinks red lights like evil, predator eyes (this device is solar powered as well).
If you suspect there are foxes underneath your shed, don’t block it up until you are sure all the foxes are gone. Sometimes, garden sheds are great places to have kits. If there is a family of foxes under your shed, best just wait until they leave – maybe until Fall. Just think of the hours of pleasure watching kits playing in your yard!
To make sure the foxes have moved away, stretch a large sheet of newspaper or other thin paper over the den entrance. If there are foxes, the paper will be broken in the morning. When you are positive there are no foxes living under your shed, install some chicken wire.
Is it Legal To Trap or Kill a Fox in My Yard? (To Stop Them Digging Up My Lawn?)
In the United States, the law varies. The best thing is to check in your state. Generally, killing pests in your own yard is allowed. However, it’s very inhumane.
Instead of killing a wild animal, try to discourage them. Disrupt them. Harass them.
Trapping and relocating pest animals is more humane than killing them. You can enlist the help of a professional trapper or buy a spring-loaded trap yourself.
If you plan to trap the fox yourself, please consider whether the fox may be a vixen with kits to feed. To be sure you are not also killing a litter of kits, consider waiting to trap your pest fox until the fall.
A hungry fox will sometimes dig up your lawn in search of grubs – but they prefer getting them from your flower beds and pot plants where the soil is looser.
You can always tell a fox has been in your garden by the tell-tale yipping, barking and crying in the night – and the strong musk odor they spray everywhere to announce that ‘this is my patch!’.
There are both humane and not so humane ways to get rid of a fox in your garden, but perhaps the best way to stop them from damaging your lawn is to use the services of a professional trapper to catch and relocate them.
Just look at those beautiful pictures above – could you live with yourself if you shot one of those?
Homeowner and property investor Larry Jones founded Take a Yard in 2020 to bring you the very best outdoor living content, based on his years of experience managing outside spaces. Read more >