Development pushes native wildlife into College Park neighborhoods

Residents report increased fox sightings

This Red Fox (Vulpes vulpes) was spotted in Dr. Jennifer Murrow's backyard.

Image Credit: Dr. Jennifer Murrow.

May 20, 2014

College Park residents gained some new neighbors this spring that are hungry, furry, and not always welcome.

Recent development along the U.S. Route 1 corridor in Prince George’s County, including the $250 million Cafritz development, are forcing many native wildlife species into residential areas such as College Park, said Vivian Cooper of College Park animal control.

Cooper said she has received an abnormally high amount of calls this spring about red foxes, which have an early mating season, and expects to receive calls about other species such as deer, squirrel and rabbit, as the season progresses.

“There are multiple sites [in the area] where they are doing construction work,” Cooper said. “The Cafritz development is definitely pushing wildlife north, because there has been overgrown greenery there for years.”

Kathy Bryant of College Park said she is not concerned about the increase of foxes in residential areas. “All my neighbors are in awe with wonderment at the beauty of seeing foxes in our neighborhood. I have not heard a single complaint,” she said.

Cooper said foxes have been sighted in several neighborhoods, including Calvert Hills, Hollywood, Crystal Springs and College Park Woods. There is also a fox family living in the compost field at Davis Hall, the College Park public works building, she said.

While red foxes are generally non-confrontational, they can eat small rodents and animals, scavenge through trash and build dens in residential areas, Cooper said. “There is really no concern on my behalf, but there is some concern on the resident level because of the increase of sightings,” she said. “I’m sure as the season progresses, I’ll get more complaints of various species.”

Washington, D.C.,-based Calvin Cafritz Enterprises, the developers of the Riverdale Park project, did not return requests for comment by press time.

Jennifer Murrow, a wildlife ecologist and lecturer with the University of Maryland, College Park, said wildlife sightings in urban areas could become more common as foxes and other animals are forced from their habitats. “Wildlife that stay in suburban areas have to adapt to our habitat,” she said. “What that means is they’re going to use our structures, feed in our gardens and be in our yards more. There’s always going to be the potential for conflict.”

Murrow said red foxes are better at adapting to urbanization than some animals, such as forest-dwelling birds, amphibians and reptiles, which often see decreased populations as a result of development.

While a female fox may emit a loud screeching sound as part of a mating ritual, Cooper said the animals are generally non-confrontational and can even be pleasant to watch. “They’re actually quite peaceful to watch, but when you’re not used to seeing it, that’s when the residents freak out,” she said.