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This question is inspired by the question of @Sue on the peripheral vision of squirrels. It is a much less appealing question, but I figure if we can ask about animal behavior at feeding stations, my question is OK.

I too have an on-ground feeding station for chipmunks, squirrels, the larger birds and whoever else comes around. Lately, a very skittish juvenile fox has been a participant at the feeding station. He or she shows his appreciation for the food by leaving a calling card on the patio. Terrible table manners!

We have seen foxes running through the yard from time to time for decades, but this is the first juvenile, the first to feed from the patio, and the first to leave a calling card. I see him/her in the morning around 08:30 after I put out the critter food, and (s)he has left sign overnight. The other critters do not bother him, and if I am motionless, he ignores me, but at my first twitch, he retreats, but sometimes comes back after a few minutes. He looks healthy. Foxes have denned in a neighbor's yard for years -- less than 1/4 mile from us.

Why is the juvenile fox defecating on my patio, and is there any tactic I can employ, short of chasing the fox off whenever I see him (e.g., placement of the food) to avoid having to clean up after him/her?

Addition in Response to a Comment: As @Charlie Brumbaugh suggested, I read a related question and its answers on gardening stack exchange, but did not find a useful answer there. The question involved a lawn, mine is about a patio. The OP said the poop was runny and sticky; my fox's is solid and well formed -- I find it easy (but tiresome) to pick up with a paper towel. The link one of the answers gave to possible answers is broken. Another answer recommended trapping the fox, which I will not do. Another recommended a product with a horrible stench. Another recommended getting big cat poop or urine from a zoo; I know from experience that the National Zoo will not give away big cat poop -- it is Federal Government property! (Long story.) As for having a man urinate around my patio (another answer), I'd rather have a neat, localized piece of poop. Bottom line, the related question did not give me any help.

  • A noted humorist/ writer, I think it was Roger Welsch, wrote about this very idea. His conclusion was that this is a fox thank-you card. I'm looking for the story... – cobaltduck May 16 at 22:51
  • Ah yes, found it, but it was actually about a coyote, not a fox. Chapter 38 of his book "Outhouses", you can read here: books.google.com/… – cobaltduck May 16 at 22:58
  • Hi ab2! This is interesting and on-topic whether or not the answers on the other site helped. It was nice of you to repeat some of that information, though, and explain why those responses did not help. It will keep us from giving you the same answers! – Sue Saddest Farewell TGO GL May 17 at 1:11
  • I'm curious about a few things, if you don't mind adding them to the question. Is this the first time you've had regular visits, and bad manners, from a fox in your yard? What general time of the day is it? Does he come when the "regulars" are there? You mentioned it's skittish. Is that just with you, or with the animals? Are they abundant in your area? Since he's a juvenile, I wonder if he's lost. That wouldn't necessarily explain the behavior, though, but it might explain his presence. – Sue Saddest Farewell TGO GL May 17 at 1:29
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    @Sue I edited to answer your questions. My assumption is that he was kicked out of the den to fend on his own when this spring's kits were born. Does this sound reasonable? – ab2 ReinstateMonicaNow May 17 at 1:46
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Stop removing the poop.

If you are tired of removing it think how the fox feels about having to replace it!

The fox is marking their territory and you keep removing the marks. Per your updated answer you are fine with sharing the patio with the fox. Let the fox know it as well, leave the poop.

In scent marking, the fox patrols the boundary areas of its territory and leaves various markers that serve notice of its presence to other foxes. Feces are usually deposited in highly visible places and urine is then sprayed around the area. Source

We have pet house rabbits who also mark territory with poop. When first establishing "my space" they leave poops. Once they feel secure about the space they will stop leaving more. If you have to remove it during the day, put it back before the animal returns.

If you only remove it after a couple of days. The animal "should" learn that you are ok with it being their space, but would prefer they don't leave marks there. It is complex communication between you and the animal, the two of you have to come to an understanding.

The animal has other places they would like to mark, if they are not feeling like they need to re-assert their ownership of your patio, they will leave their marks other places. They only have a limited supply, help them not need to use it at your location.

  • P.S. As fox poop is more gross then bunny poop, you might put a flower pot upside down over it while you are out on the patio. With bunnies we sometimes put the poops in a sandwich bag when the bunny is not in the area and we don't want to step on it. Then we take it out of the bag and put it back, before the bunny gets in the area again. – James Jenkins May 17 at 14:24
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    Terrific answer. Made me feel (a) guilty and (b) hopeful that the fox will fairly soon no longer feel the need to mark. – ab2 ReinstateMonicaNow May 17 at 21:10

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