Fox Spottings Increasing in Philly’s Germantown Neighborhood

Whether it's just one or several, fox sightings have become common in the area near the Wissahickon.

So far, they haven’t kept neighbors up at night howling at the moon (or is it wolves that do that?), but the foxes who have moved into Germantown have kept them talking for several months now.

The earliest mention of a fox in the neighborhood on the Facebook discussion group “Living in Germantown: All Together” came back in July, when resident Alima Umm Lam’yaa “spotted a FOX running down the street on Coulter near Morris earlier.”

Since then, there have been several more sightings; at least one case involved two foxes together. The most recent one was a “home invasion,” where G’towner Garlen Capita, a community planner at WRT Architects, photographed one on the front porch of a neighbor’s home in the 300 block of West Earlham Terrace.

Capita has only spotted the one, but she had a hard time convincing her husband of its existence. “He’s been there quite a few months now,” she said. “My husband was like, ‘Oh, you didn’t see a fox,’ but then a neighbor took a photo of it. I think it was early summer or fall.”

It appears that there may indeed be a whole skulk of foxes commuting via the SEPTA tracks: resident Bob McLeod back in November referred to “the fox family that lives in the grade for the Chestnut Hill West line between [School House Lane] and Chelten [Avenue], saying that it appeared to be at least four strong.

What all the sighting locations have in common is that they are close to both the Wissahickon Valley and SEPTA’s Chestnut Hill West Regional Rail line. Several photos of foxes along the tracks have been posted to the group along with backyard videos.

These foxes appear to have adapted to their urban habitat. When asked if the fox on Earlham Terrace fled when she approached it, Capita said, “Not at all. I was pretty surprised that I got close to it when I took the photos.”

What’s more, she said, the fox on her block gets along well with the neighborhood’s large population of stray cats: “When I saw the fox yesterday on the neighbor’s porch, there were six cats hanging out with him as well.”

The Humane Society of the United States says that foxes are quite common in urban areas, where they can easily scavenge for food. (Capita speculated that the fox on her block was visiting to help himself to some of the food residents leave out for the cats.) It also states that foxes are normally afraid of humans and run away when they approach, but foxes who have come to associate people with food may do the opposite and approach them. The HSUS says that the best thing to do if one spots a fox out and about during the day is leave it alone, as they pose no danger to people unless they are rabid, which is very rare. Owners of small pets, however, may want to keep them indoors to reduce the chances of their becoming a fox’s dinner.

Mature cats, however, are in no danger, for they can defend themselves. Which may explain the fox-cat harmony in Germantown.

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