Volunteers will no longer be protecting the fox den at Woodbine Beach after experiencing hostility and threats from members of the community, the Toronto Wildlife Centre confirmed.
On Monday, the centre said there was “hostility towards our volunteers at times, including verbal abuse.”
Toronto Wildlife also claims there were “two very serious threats of physical violence” — one where a man allegedly told a volunteer “if he had a knife he would stab her” and more recently, a man who reportedly went after a teenage volunteer with a knife.
Due to concerns surrounding verbal abuse and serious threats made to TWC volunteers, we have made the difficult decision to conclude the presence of volunteers at Woodbine Beach. We will continue to work with the city and do what we can to help the foxes. https://t.co/GgzHUQM8mj pic.twitter.com/LGZi2rvX5L
— Toronto Wildlife Centre (@TWC_Wildlife) June 8, 2020
“Understandably, the city doesn’t have the resources to provide police officers on scene 16+ hours per day, seven days per week, to protect our committed volunteers. But as an organization, despite our deep concern for the fox family, the safety and well-being of our volunteers is paramount,” the statement said.
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“As a result of these serious concerns, we have made the difficult decision to conclude the presence of our volunteers on site.”
According to the centre, over the past month 58 volunteers have contributed close to 1,500 hours of time doing their best to protect the fox family.
And, they acknowledged there has been “heartwarming support” from members of the local community, and “dozens” have joined Toronto Wildlife’s volunteers to educate the public about urban wildlife and the importance of leaving the foxes alone.
The organization also noted that the young foxes at Woodbine Beach are reaching a more “independent age,” venturing further from the den, sometimes on their own.
Also, the aversive conditioning the volunteers have been practicing has reportedly helped the kits, encouraging them to avoid people more than before volunteers were on the scene.
“They’re practicing hunting on their own, as well as on animals their parents bring them. The fox kits are older and soon they will be moving on – and it’s time for TWC’s volunteers to move on too.”
Toronto Wildlife is also asking the community to provide the “best environment” for the fox family and to keep dogs leashed and far away from the wild animals, since dogs and their close cousins, coyotes, are predators to foxes.
Additionally, residents should not approach the foxes nor feed them.
The fox family first made their presence known in early May, when City staff put up barricades in an effort to protect the family of foxes from crowds of residents.
The barriers were placed as Toronto Wildlife Centre reported that people were gathering around and feeding fox kits living under The Beaches boardwalk.
“Please leave them be – feeding them will negatively affect their development into normal adults,” the centre said at the time.
On May 22, Toronto Wildlife reported that one of the fix kits died from likely a large predator.
Now, the centre says it’s up to everyone to protect the foxes and ensure their long-term survival.