Sick red fox seen in Berkeley hills near Tilden

A sick, possibly mangey fox has been seen in near Tilden Park in the areas around Fairlawn and Queens Drive. Photo: Phyllis Steiber
A sick red fox has been seen near Tilden Park in the areas around Fairlawn Drive and Queens Drive. Photo: Phyllis Steiber

A mangey red fox has been seen in the Berkeley Hills near Tilden in the past few weeks, spurring varied responses by neighbors on how to deal with injured and sick wildlife, especially given the fact that the red fox is not native to California and has caused rampant ecological damage across the state.

Chris Welch, a resident of Fairlawn Drive near the edge of Tilden Park, first spotted the fox in his backyard in mid-July. He expressed concern and said it appeared to have “very advanced mange.”

Photo: Phyllis Steiber
Photo: Phyllis Steiber

Phila Rogers, who lives in the area where the fox has been seen, said there has been a wide variety of responses to the fox, including some “bleeding hearts” and others who want to “leave the poor beast alone.”

A map of the invasive species of red fox, shown in the dotted areas, and the California native red fox, in dark grey. Image: California Dept. of Fish and Wildlife
The range of the red fox. Native species range is dark grey, invasive species range is  dotted. Image: California Dept. of Fish and Wildlife

Rogers, who has written for the Lawrence Hall of Science website on the natural history of the Berkeley Hills, said it “took [her] a minute to realize what [she] was looking at” when she first saw the fox around two weeks ago. She sees the native gray fox fairly often but hadn’t seen much of the invasive red fox in her area.

(To read up on the environmental damage invasive red foxes have caused in California, see the California Department of Fish and Wildlife article on red foxes.)

Some people may wonder if a resident can’t simply put down an injured or sick fox if it is seen on the resident’s property. To learn more about hunting regulations in California, go to the hunting and fishing regulations page of the California Department of Fish and Wildlife website.

Update, 10:35 a.m.: Steve Bobzien, an ecology services coordinator with the East Bay Regional Park District, said that, while red foxes do live in Tilden, their population is kept under control by competition with the coyote population that also lives in the area. Bobzien said the park district does not monitor the population of red foxes.

Bobzien added that, during years of drought, coyotes and both red and gray foxes are “more susceptible to mange and canine distemper.” Foaming at the mouth is a symptom of both rabies and canine distemper, he said, so be cautious if an animal appears to be foaming at the mouth and acting strangely.

If you see a noticeably ill wild animal, do not approach it, said Bobzien. Instead, call Berkeley Animal Care Services at 510-981-6600 and describe the situation to Animal Control.

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