Did you know that there is a family of red foxes at Montreal's Parc Jean-Drapeau island? Maybe you've never spotted them in real life, but a scroll through the park's Instagram page shows that the cute critters pop up now and again when guests are quick enough to snap a picture. While admiring the adorable photos a while back, I encountered a caption that explained the red fox population currently on the islands was "introduced to the park's ecosystem to control exploding rodent populations, particularly marmots."

I was curious to know more about the introduction of these adorable animals and how their new presence on the island has impacted the eco-system of both Île Notre-Dame and Île Notre-Dame Île Sainte-Hélène.

So, I got in touch with Parc Jean-Drapeau's Communications Advisor, Kaven Gauthier, who graciously hunted down a bunch of information for me, including talking with Yvan Lafrance from Montreal's La Faune, a company that provides "innovative solutions" related to the presence of animals near industrial and commercial facilities.

Gauthier let me know that there were actually two or three families of foxes on both islands about ten years ago — but they seemed to have disappeared, until three years ago. 

The teams at the park eventually started noticing that the populations of groundhogs, squirrels, and skunks were exploding, causing several problems related to maintenance and safety.

There were no longer any signs of red foxes as predators in the park, though why they disappeared remains unknown.

It could be that the foxes were hunted, accidentally killed by vehicles, or just picked up and established dens elsewhere, as foxes are nomadic animals and therefore are unafraid to explore and establish in different locations.

About three years ago, La Faune captured six red foxes wandering around the island of Montreal. The eventually called Parc Jean-Drapeau to see if the park could help in reintegrating the foxes into the wild.

Since Parc Jean-Drapeau was having problems with rodents populations, the goal was to naturally rebalance the ecosystem.


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Today, Gauthier thinks there are five foxes left on the island, with the sixth still being a bit of a mystery if it's just a super sleuth or has perhaps wandered out of the Parc again. 

In the winter, when the river freezes, the foxes are able to bound right across the ice and right back onto the island of Montreal, which is perhaps what happened with the mysterious sixth fox.

I was even tempted to try and go snap my own pictures for this article because Gauthier made it seem like spotting them wasn't all that rare. In fact, he said on the day he visited Île Notre-Dame to conduct his first interview, he spotted one. It must have been a good omen, considering he got the job.

Another time, during a lunchtime yoga class, a fox strolled over, plopped down and just chilled in front of the yoga class while it was going on.

The red foxes aren’t dangerous to humans and are usually very curious.

However, feeding wild animals can result in them losing their survival instinct and their natural desire to hunt. It can also cause a dependency on human activity to survive.

Also, a natural fear of human activity is important for animals as this helps them avoid being hunted or hit by vehicles.

So if you're hoping to spot les renards roux next time you're at Parc Jean-Drapeau, leave the snacks behind.

Instead, just bring a good camera, head out around dusk when the foxes like to hunt, and cross your fingers. 

You just might get lucky!

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