• Photo: Megan Lorenz/Can Geo Photo Club

In 1913, a science journal reported that red fox were common in Toronto despite the city's growing size and development. More than a century later, red foxes still inhabit the natural and urban spaces within Canada's largest metropolis. In an effort to protect the species, named Toronto's unofficial mammal, as well as other wildlife, the city launched its Biodiversity Series guidebooks to inform citizens and cultivate a sense of stewardship. Here, the city’s environmental policy planner Kelly Snow discusses Toronto’s red foxes.

How did the red fox become the unofficial mammal of the city? 
The working group for the Mammals of Toronto guidebook decided to choose the red fox because its an interesting species and perhaps a bit misunderstood. When they come into close contact with humans, they’re initially met with a little bit of fear and lack of awareness. We wanted to show people that these are actually very interesting animals and we should be happy to share our urban environment with them.

Where in Toronto do red foxes live?
Red foxes live primarily in the natural heritage system, which includes an extensive network of ravines. But they also use utility corridors, golf courses and any large areas with cover. Often they’re seen in industrial or employment areas where there are less people in the evenings.

What should people know about sharing our cities with these animals?
Urban wildlife is something to appreciate, not fear. Of course, we still need to treat them respect, because they’re wild animals. Red foxes are certainly not the guilty culprits of green bin attacks, like raccoons, which is a common misconception. They’re not out there feeding on our garbage. The vast majority of their diet is found in nature.

In what ways are red foxes beneficial to Toronto’s environment?
Red foxes are part of a biodiversity web and an indicator species in terms of ecosystem’s health; their presence indicates a healthy ecosystem. They’re also very resilient and adaptable. Red foxes may not be as prevalent or in your face as raccoons, but they’re very similar in their ability to adapt.