Concerned that foxes near the Park Point area of Duluth are becoming too comfortable near populated areas, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources has asked people to stop feeding the animals.
Foxes have lived for years on Park Point, the seven-mile spit of land that sticks out into Lake Superior beyond the Aerial Lift Bridge. Although some people have long fed them, a growing number of people are complaining about it, DNR Assistant Area Wildlife Manager Martha Minchak said.
"They're very, very tame, or acting very, very tame," Minchak said of the foxes. "Some folks think that's a great thing, and others are upset by that."
Public reaction is split. Some think the foxes are a nuisance and want them removed from the area — or at least not fed. Others like to see wild animals, and encourage their presence by feeding them. It's against the law to feed bears and deer in Duluth, but not foxes or other wildlife.
Minchak said unnatural concentrations of wild animals can help spread disease. She has heard reports of foxes stepping over people on the beach. Others have tried to enter homes and an assisted living center.
She realized last year how widespread the issue of feeding foxes on Park Point had become when the DNR hired a trapper to relocate a bear cub in the area. But the trapper had a lot of trouble luring the cub to his trap, because he was so busy feasting on food residents had set out for foxes.
Instances of people feeding wildlife has increased as urban and suburban developments have steadily encroached on wildlife habitat, Minchak said. Earlier this year the DNR had to encourage people not to feed wolf pups in a remote area near Brimson.
Minchak said many people around Duluth consider the frequency of seeing wildlife part of the quality of life of living in the region.
"But there are other folks who think this is an urban or suburban area, and they're not so thrilled about seeing wildlife in such close proximity," she said. "And especially when they get somewhat tame like this from the feeding, and are following people down the street, some people are upset by that."