5 On Your Side

Tangle of NC hunting, trapping laws outfox man seeking to rid yard of fox den

Posted July 21, 2016 7:01 p.m. EDT

— In the last two months, rabid foxes have attacked a 3-year-old northwest of Charlotte, three people and a dog in Durham, a woman in Raleigh and an animal control officer and a resident in Smithfield.

People across North Carolina are on alert about foxes, but a man worried about foxes in his Four Oaks yard was threatened with jail time for trying to handle the problem until 5 on Your Side got involved.

Foy Daniels said a fox built a den for herself and her three kits under a shed in his backyard. He wanted them moved but said he got bounced between Wayne County Animal Control, licensed trappers and a wildlife rehabilitator when he sought help.

"That's when I had an incident where the mom actually came out," Daniels said. "The dog was going crazy, and she was like making this barking sound back at him ... I took a shot at her from the house to try and chase her off."

The fox disappeared into the woods.

A trapper then told Daniels that he could save money by trapping the kits himself and calling the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission to pick them up and relocate them. So he did that, but Wildlife Resources then sent two game wardens to his home to cite him for taking a fox out of season, which carries a $215 fine.

"I wasn't hunting," he said. "I was protecting my dog."

"This does not sound remotely accurate to the way we operate," said Lt. Sam Craft of Wildlife Resources. "The last thing an officer would want to do is take someone to court when that person thought they were doing the right thing."

Craft said that, while every case is different, if a person is protecting his or her property or another person it's not a crime to kill a fox.

Tickets for taking a fox are rare, with only seven issued in North Carolina in the last five years. Daniels is the only person to be cited for that this year.

State and local laws add to the confusion. North Carolina has 27 different fox hunting seasons and 22 different trapping seasons – all based on where someone lives.

When Daniels challenged his ticket, however, he was charged with trapping the kits illegally, which carries a possible jail sentence if convicted

"Trying to do what you think is right, for the animals and for your family," he said, "(it could) end up costing you."

After 5 on Your Side began asking questions about Daniels' case, authorities informed Daniels on Thursday that all charges against him have been dismissed.

Jessie Birckhead, an extension wildlife biologist with Wildlife Resources, said that anyone worried about foxes should remove all food sources outside, such as unsecured garbage cans and pet food. It's unlikely a healthy fox would ever approach or attack a human, she said, and yelling or waving your arms is usually enough to scare a fox off.

"Leaving a small radio playing on a talk station at the entrance of a den, often times, that's enough to encourage the female to move her kits somewhere else," Birckhead said.

Daniels said he wishes someone had mentioned the noise technique early on so he could have avoided the legal mess.

"You get different opinions from all the different agencies, and so I don't understand that," he said. "If it's North Carolina law, then everybody should know the exact same thing. So, when somebody calls in, they can say, 'This is what you do.' That's it, and it's the same no matter where you call. I didn't get that."