UNION, NJ — Dean Aneiros was headed to the gym around 7:45 a.m. in early June when he saw something he doesn’t usually see on his route: a wandering fox.
“(It was) minding its own business,” Aneiros said of the little critter. “The first time I saw it, it was crossing the street from Elmwood into the CVS parking lot and the other day it was just sitting at the corner looking around, I guess.”
Aneiros was one of several people who have spotted a fox and posted pictures of it on social media forums. So far the furry-tailed animal has been spotted in the Galloping Hill Golf Course, which borders Union and Kenilworth, school parking lots and fields, residential driveways and even Costco.
The fox isn’t shopping for food at the big box grocery store, but it may be looking for a bite to eat, a township health official said.
“Just like raccoons and possums and everything else, they follow creeks, rivers, and you know we have a couple of them surrounding Union Township,” said Nancy Rodriguez, an administrative assistant who supervises the town’s animal control program. “They go in parks or open land. They could see rabbits, that’s their form of survival. There could be rats, mice — those things that they feed on.”
There’s been some debate over whether the creature is a fox or a coyote. Rodriguez said she’s “leaning” toward the determination of a fox from the single photo she’s seen, which wasn’t very clear. She encouraged people to send more photos to help officials identify the animal properly.
Rodriguez advised humans to just ignore the fox should they ever encounter one.
“Don’t approach it because they’re wild animals,” she said. “They’re usually more afraid of humans than we are of them, believe it or not.”
Animal control would have to get permission from the state to trap a fox, which officials would only do if it were sick, Rodriguez added. Hunting and trapping foxes is allowed during certain parts of the year, according to the state Division of of Fish and Wildlife.
People have been calling in fox sightings in town for the last five years, Rodriguez said. Most recently, the calls have been picking up since late May.
The state Division of Fish and Wildlife website says there are just two species of foxes in the state: the red fox and the gray fox. While healthy foxes pose nearly no danger to humans, they may hunt small livestock animals, or cats. Dogs may help keep foxes away, the website states.