Iqaluit residents report run-ins with foxes
Health Department warns animals may transmit rabies
A fox in the Iqaluit area that has been in contact with at least two sled dogs has tested positive for rabies.
Nunavut’s Health Department confirmed the test results on Tuesday in a news release and advised residents to be on the lookout for foxes.
The news comes about a month after residents started posting on social media about sightings and encounters with foxes.
For Joannie Ferland Aariak, early-morning bike rides have led to some run-ins that were too close for comfort.
“I have been avoiding biking off-road but they still manage to find me.”
One fox chased her all the way from the Apex Beach area to the École des Trois-Soleils school, she said.
“I threw my very harmless mitt at him,” she said with a laugh.
“I yelled as loud as I could at the one that chased me and charged him with my very big fat bike, but he wouldn’t back out.”
Ferland Aariak said she has also seen foxes near the Road to Nowhere, Upper Plateau and in other areas.
Iqaluit’s Andrew Maher said he and a friend had a scary run-in with a fox last week.
“This fox chased after us, was attacking random things, and tried to bite us,” he wrote in a Facebook post.
“It was not afraid at all.”
Maher said he and his friend were lucky to scare the fox off and kill it without being bitten.
They reported the incident to local wildlife officers who sent the animal for testing.
Paul Nuyalia, who grew up in Apex, said there are more foxes in the area this year since there are more lemmings.
“When the lemmings are abundant it is a well-known fact the winter will be a good fox trapping season,” he said.
Florence Lapierre Poulin, an Iqaluit-based researcher who recently published a study on foxes on Nunavut’s Bylot Island, said increased fox sightings could be the new norm as northern communities continue to expand.
With more garbage and food around communities, Lapierre Poulin said it makes sense for foxes to be drawn-in.
“They’re really attracted to human settlements or populations because they create artificial feeding grounds for the foxes,” she explained.
Lapierre Poulin said the aggressive behaviours seen in foxes around Iqaluit are not normal and they are usually shy animals that run away from humans.
If a fox seems disoriented or is biting at objects, animals or humans, these could be signs of disease, she said.
“Foxes can carry rabies and transmit it through saliva and biting, so [people] should be careful.”
The Government of Nunavut issued public health advisories about foxes in Iqaluit and Pangnirtung on Oct. 22 and Nov. 1 after a “significant increase” in sightings in both communities.
The Health Department advised anyone who has been bitten or scratched by a fox or dog to report it and go to the health centre immediately to start treatment.
Rabies can spread to dogs and humans if bitten, the news release states.
“A person can also get rabies when handling or skinning infected animals if they have cuts on their skin.”
Iqaluit residents have also reported seeing different coloured foxes, including black ones.
Lapierre Poulin explained these are technically regular red foxes, just with silver-coloured fur.
She said these are generally less common than red-coloured foxes, but the animals can be born with one of three different colour morphs, red, silver or a mix of both.
The Arctic fox, which is a different species, can be born with white or blue fur, which has a grey look to it.
Lapierre Poulin said the amount of each colour morph is different among fox populations, but typically, island and coastal areas have higher numbers of the blue morph.
So, the black-looking foxes people have seen around town could be blue Arctic foxes, although based on the photos, Lapierre Poulin says they seem to be silver red foxes.