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For red foxes, life on the fringe Fox sightings became par for the course this year for golfers at Brighton, where as many as six of the furry creatures have been spotted since spring

Bob Moody said it was like watching an episode of "National Geographic Explorer" live.

He and a friend were playing golf at Brighton Park Golf Course in the Town of Tonawanda when they saw a red fox chase a squirrel and snatch it off a tree as it tried to scramble to safety.

"Right in front of our eyes [the fox] killed the squirrel and carried him away," Moody said, adding: "That's not something you normally see on a golf course," Moody said.

Actually, if you play at Brighton, it is.

As many as six red foxes were living there earlier this year, in dens near the 9th and 16th holes, according to Shannon Greco, a recreation coordinator for the town's Youth, Parks and Recreation Department. Sightings picked up in June and July, when the pups ventured farther from home.

"Guys would go out to mow in the morning, the foxes would be lying in the middle of the green," Greco said.

They also have been spotted napping in sand traps and trotting across the driving range adjacent to the course.

Red foxes are common throughout New York and traditionally live in dens along the edges of farmers' fields.

"With the decline of the number of farms, foxes have also been declining," said Ken Baginski, a wildlife biologist with the state Department of Environmental Conservation. An increase in the coyote population means the foxes have more competition for food, as well.

At Brighton, golfers and groundskeepers regularly come across the remains of squirrels, rabbits and birds, typical fare for the foxes.

So far, there have been no reports of foxes attacking people.

"I have never seen them act aggressively toward humans," Moody said. "They just kind of ignore us . . . or watch us."

"In a way, I think they add some color and charm to the golf course," Moody said. "They seem to be very used to humans."

Still, the foxes should be treated like any other wild animal, Baginski said.

"People should try to avoid them," Baginski said. "Not try to feed them, not try to approach them."

Nearby residents with pets should exercise caution, Baginski said, but because of their compact size -- between 7 and 14 pounds when fully grown -- red foxes don't pose much of a threat to domestic animals.

Surprisingly, rabies isn't a big threat, either.

"Rabies in a fox typically will kill the fox within a couple of days, making the chance of it actually spreading the rabies to someone or something else pretty low," Baginski said.

Between 1998 and 2008, rabies was confirmed in 10 foxes countywide, according to the Erie County Health Department. The only fox-related case so far this year involved a gray fox in Gowanda.

Foxes aren't the only predators at the golf course.

"Last year we had a coyote," Greco said. "That was more of a threat."

A trapper was called in after the coyote made a run at the dogs the town uses to shoo Canada geese from the golf courses. But before it could be caught, the coyote apparently was hit and killed by a car on the Youngmann Memorial Highway.

Traps were brought in this year to deal with the foxes because of the damage they were causing to the greens, Greco said. The den near the 16th hole also was demolished.

But by the time the traps were set, most of the foxes already had moved on, Greco said.

email: jhabuda@buffnews.com

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