EDITORIAL: There are dangerous animals in Port. They are not foxes.

Little fox pups were an odd choice for someone who felt the need to have wild creatures trapped and deported from Port Washington. They are among the least offensive to humans of the wild animals that visit or have taken up residence in the city. What’s more, these juveniles were adorable.

The red fox kits, frequently seen frolicking near their temporary home under the St. Mary’s Church steps, had a legion of devoted fans. The inexplicable decision made by a nearby condo owner or owners to pay professional animal trappers to lure the pups into traps and take them away from their parents to be placed in a wildlife shelter in Fredonia ignited deserved outrage, which was expressed in letters to the editor in this newspaper and in Facebook commentary.

One of the letter writers pointed out that Port Washington has “homes snuggled into the wooded hillsides surrounding the downtown” and that people fortunate to live there share these spaces with deer, raccoons, possums, rabbits, woodchucks, squirrels, skunks and foxes. He wrote about enjoying the sight of a litter of fox kits “playing joyfully with each other” on his porch.

Foxes are no threat to humans and, in fact, do a service by making rodent pests a large part of their diets. In Port Washington and much of the rest of America, these generally benign creatures coexist with the most dangerous animal in the country, the white-tailed deer.

Deer have earned the title, bestowed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, by multiplying to such overwhelming numbers that more than a million deer-car collisions occur every year, with hundreds of human deaths and an untold number of injuries, and by spreading an often disabling sickness to humans as hosts for the ticks that carry Lyme disease.

Those are merely the direct threats. In other ways, deer are doing serious damage to the ecosystem that supports all life by destroying forests and with them the animals and plants that live there.

Wildlife ecologists and entomologists agree that the white-tailed deer population has far exceeded the ability of the ecosystem to sustain the species.

Deer eat native flora so rapaciously that native flowers, plants and shrubs are disappearing from forest floors, allowing invasive species to take over. Like falling dominos, the loss of native flowers and other plants causes the loss of bees and butterflies that pollinate plants and other insects that provide food for birds. Birds are also more vulnerable to predators because deer have destroyed the brush that once concealed them. Because of this, a Smithsonian ecologist reported, “Most of the forest migratory birds are in trouble.”

The deer herds graze on seedlings and saplings, preventing the growth of new trees and prompting the Nature Conservancy to declare deer “a bigger threat to Eastern forests than climate change.”

If only managing the deer population were as easy reducing the fox population proved to be in Port Washington. Ringing up a trap-for-profit service obviously wouldn’t be practical, given the numbers and size of the deer. Remedies tried in various deer-plagued urban and suburban areas have included hiring sharpshooters or archers to kill the animals, putting does on birth control drugs with darts, introducing natural predators and allowing more hunting. So far, the deer have outreproduced all of those options.

Deer, of course, are gentle creatures, and at the Bambi stage of their lives are as adorable as young foxes. So no one really fears the most dangerous animal in the country. Little foxes, on the other hand, are apparently scary enough to cause fearful humans to commission a kitnapping.


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Ozaukee Press

Wisconsin’s largest paid circulation community weekly newspaper. Serving Port Washington, Saukville, Grafton, Fredonia, Belgium, as well as Ozaukee County government. Locally owned and printed in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

125 E. Main St.
Port Washington, WI 53074
(262) 284-3494


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