Oneonta city police are cautioning residents to stay away from sickly looking foxes, which have been reported seen in city neighborhoods in recent months.
Some area foxes are suffering from mange, a disease that causes loss of fur and scabs, a state Department of Conservation official said Monday.
Since July 1, more than 60 callers told police about ill or injured foxes near homes, schools and parks, Oneonta police said.
The tally includes 14 callers Saturday who reported seeing a fox in the area of South Main and Market, Grand and Division streets, Lt. Douglas Brenner said Monday. The DEC has been notified.
DEC spokesman Rick Georgeson said some foxes in Otsego and Delaware counties have been suffering from mange, a highly contagious form of canine scabies.
Last winter’s mild weather resulted in growth in the fox population, Georgeson said. An affected fox is likely to lose its coat and die of exposure during the coming winter, which is nature’s way of adjusting the population, he said.
Infestations of sarcoptic mange run in cycles, Georgeson said, and the disease spreads through direct contact with an infected animal. Cats and dogs are vulnerable, he said, but human contact is unlikely.
Georgeson said a dead fox shouldn’t be touched. The body should be double-bagged and buried 3 or 4 feet deep to prevent animals from accessing it in a garbage container, he said.
Residents seeing sickly foxes should call police, Brenner said, and the animals shouldn’t be approached.
Police officers are dispatched to find the foxes but often the animals are gone by the time patrols reach the location reported, he said.
However, in one case, and officer found an ailing animal and shot it because of its unhealthy appearance and actions, Brenner said. Sightings of skunks, raccoons and deer in the city aren’t uncommon, he said, but the high volume of fox reports is unusual.
Police will continue to respond to calls for service regarding foxes, the release said.