The fox is regarded as a trickster, a livestock predator and a symbol of cleverness and cunning in virtually every culture around the world where these animals are found.
That’s for good reason, and there are few wild animals that are as evasive as foxes. But as human settlements expand, foxes are seen in increasing numbers in many urban and suburban areas.
They continue to pray on small animals and pets, and this has plenty of people worried. Are foxes dangerous?
Foxes aren’t typically dangerous to people. Though foxes have long, sharp teeth and can inflict nasty bites, fox attacks on people are exceedingly rare and typically only occur if the animal is rabid, or if it was cornered or captured.
As troubling as a fox might be for your livestock and your pets, you hardly ever have to worry about a fox attacking an adult human being you should never, ever trust them around small children.
Foxes will only press an attack when truly desperate, when captured or when out of their mind because of the rabies virus.
Otherwise, you can bet on a fox running away every time. I’ll tell you everything you need to know about foxes and their potential interactions with people below.
Fox Overview, Temperament and Habitat
There are several species of foxes to be found all around the world, from the iconic red fox of North America to the tiny and peculiar bat-eared fox of Africa.
Although these foxes typically inhabit brushy areas and forests, they can be found virtually everywhere because they’re so adaptable and intelligent.
In the wild, foxes live alone or in small family or companion groups, and they include multiple generations.
Foxes spend pretty much all of their waking hours looking for food, and can be found hunting, foraging and investigating other sources of food at all times.
Unless you’re dealing with an urban or suburban fox, it is unlikely that you will see a fox before it sees you when out in the wilderness.
Foxes are cunning, and as soon as they get wind of something moving into their territory they will lay low or hide and observe from a covered position. If they have any suspicions whatsoever, they will slip away almost silently.
But it is this tendency for flight rather than fight that makes fox attacks on humans so very rare, thankfully!
Do Foxes Protect Their Territory?
Not really. Even in the case where you should blunder right into a fox’s territory it is all but certain that it will retreat.
Even in a case where you approach a den where fox kits are, their young, it is highly likely that the parents will evacuate the little ones to a secondary den or a previously selected safe area.
This isn’t to say you should try such a thing, because any cornered animal will try to protect its young, but outright aggression from foxes is exceedingly rare in all but the most exceptional cases.
Do Foxes Act Aggressively Toward Each Other?
Yes, they do, at least some of the time. Foxes will act aggressively towards strangers that are entering their territory, and they’re highly food possessive.
Most confrontations between foxes do not end in bloodshed, but fights are hardly unheard of.
Do Foxes Threaten People?
Very rarely, if ever. Most foxes that resort to attacking people do so for misguided reasons, sheer desperation or in case they have rabies and are mentally compromised.
Foxes will rarely spend much time posturing in any of these circumstances, and are likely to attack straight away.
Have There Been Recorded Fox Attacks on People?
Yes, but again these are quite rare, and usually only result from one of three circumstances. See next section…
What Will Trigger a Fox Attack on a Person?
Several things. The first is that the fox has been truly cornered or has been captured, in which case it will attack by biting.
Professional trappers run this risk all the time, as does anyone who inadvertently corners a fox under their own deck, porch or other structure around their home.
The second instance in which a fox might attack is a predatory one. It’s terrible to think about, but large, mature foxes (and red foxes in particular) have made passes at small children and pets, leading to injuries for both and occasionally for adult guardians who try to intervene.
The final instance in which a fox might attack a person is if it is rabid. The later stages of rabies will badly degrade a fox’s mental faculties and they will then act very out of character.
There was even a recorded video a couple of years ago that showed a woman being blindsided by a fox that attacked her in broad daylight when she was at the end of her driveway and the attack went on for some time:
Any fox that is acting suspiciously or is deliberately coming closer to people is an immediate red flag.
Just How Strong is a Fox?
Foxes are strong all right, about as strong as a dog of similar size. More than strong enough to inflict a severe bite injury.
Can Foxes Bite?
Yes, they can! Foxes are more than capable of biting, and they will readily bite when attacking or defending themselves. A fox’s teeth are its only means of defense aside from evasion.
What Does a Fox Attack Look Like?
Foxes attack by biting, and possibly scratching. That’s it. If a fox is attacking live prey, they will try to dispatch it and then carry it away to be broken down for consumption, or else they will stash it to be eaten at leisure, especially if they have kits back in the den.
Now, because of the rare nature of fox attacks, and their overwhelming tendency to run away rather than confront or fight, there is not a whole lot of data concerning true pre-attack behavior.
Most people know they are under attack from a fox when they actually get attacked, or if they see the fox attack a child or pet and then move to intervene.
How Do You Respond to a Fox Attack?
If a fox attacks you all you can do is fight back. If a fox is rabid it might be quite a fight, because chances are the animal will have no thoughts of self-preservation or retreat when so afflicted.
A fox that is cornered will likely bite and attack in order to buy itself an opening to escape. Any fox that is after a child or pet for food is likely to give up once a larger, meaner predator intervenes – that’s you!
However, for whatever reason if a fox does not give up the attack you must continually fight back until this fox is disabled or dead, or else try to reach a safe place they can keep the fox from getting to you. Easier said than done when a fox is chewing on your leg like a cob of corn!
Will a Fox Eat a Person?!
Yes, it will. Although it’s borderline unthinkable that any fox would attack a grown human being as prey, a fox will definitely eat a dead human body. They are partially scavengers and opportunists after all.
Also, keep in mind it is far more likely that a fox could go after a small child as prey, so never turn your back on a fox if you have your little ones around.
Keep a very close eye on them if you are in fox territory or any other area or foxes are known to be.
Can People Catch Diseases from Foxes?
Yes, they can, but the most concerning by far is rabies. Foxes are not the most common vectors of the rabies virus, but they are a significant one, more than dogs if that tells you anything.
Also, most alarmingly, rabid fox attacks have been on the rise in recent years.
This means you must keep a close eye on any foxes you see in the area and wash them for uncharacteristic behavior.
This is far more difficult than it used to be thanks to the preponderance of suburban and urban foxes that now live comfortably in human settlements.
These foxes are regularly seen active during the day, which is itself not uncharacteristic.
But, if you notice them acting very aggressive, or if they seem completely uninterested or unnoticing of anything going on around them, be cautious. Rabid foxes can attack with great swiftness and without warning, so be on guard.
If you have any close encounter with a fox, and definitely if you are bitten or scratched by one, you must seek medical attention immediately to rule out rabies.