Dewey Beach set to outfox foxes

Commissioners debate methods, town requests proposal
November 15, 2019

After a pet bloodhound was bitten by a fox Nov. 4, Dewey Beach commissioners sought ways to tackle the problem at their Nov. 9 regular meeting.

Jim Caperelli, whose dog Copper was bitten on town property, told commissioners if a fox would attack a dog, it would attack a person. He said state agencies passed responsibility for handling the issue to each other.

“Then animal services showed up, and on record he said - whether he’s right or wrong - this is Dewey Beach’s responsibility, it’s not our responsibility. It’s a public safety hazard, and it’s Dewey Beach’s responsibility to protect the pets and people in this town,” Caperelli said.

Caperelli, who owns doggie daycare Taj Ma Howl, said he’s not only a resident with a dog, but a business owner who walks hundreds of dogs.

“I’m liable for those dogs, so thank God it didn’t happen to a client’s dog,” he said. “So where do we stand now? What are we doing about this, may I ask?”

Mayor TJ Redefer said the public comment period is not a time for discussion.

“We can’t respond at this time, but know that we’re working on it,” he said.

Later in the meeting, Commissioner Dale Cooke said residents asked him to bring up the foxes. He said in the past, the town has either trapped and killed, or trapped and released foxes.

“We’ve had this off and on, and deliberately, I think, or through benign negligence, we did not make any policy,” Cooke said. “The town needs to come up with a policy because this is the second time the state has said, not us - you’re a municipality, it’s your problem.”

Town Clerk Ashleigh Hudson said she contacted Jay Wilkins of Wilkins Wildlife & Bedbug Nov. 13 for a quote on his services.

“We wanted to find out his procedures in case there are more issues,” she said. “We want to have a contact who could be on call.”

Wilkins said his approach would be to assess possible den sites and use habitat modification to deter animals using odors unpleasant to their sensitive noses so they move to another area. In the past, he said, he has trapped foxes with mange in Dewey.

“Every situation is different,” he said. “With foxes, sometimes modification works; other times, to reduce the threat to public health, we have to trap. In a public health situation, removal is the solution. Our job is to protect the public.”

Caperelli said he was pleased to hear some progress has been made.

“I’m happy the town has finally stepped up and has done something about this very serious problem to protect not only our pets but residents as well,” he said. “Hopefully in the future there is a better implementation process so it does not take 11 days. That’s 11 days that humans and our pets are in harm’s way. That’s 11 days too long.”

Redefer and Town Manager Scott Koenig could not be reached for further comment.

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