Red fox sightings are on the rise in the La Crosse area. The winter is their mating season and they are becoming more active, according to the Wisconsin DNR.
"There's not a lot going on in the parks this time of year," said DNR Conservation Warden Edward McCann. "So they're kind of a little bit more visible as a result of that."
They are legal to hunt with a small game license outside the city however on December 28th, 2 men were recently charged for illegally killing one in a south side cemetery.
"In the city, people find it objectionable to be shooting them in a cemetery, in a park or within city limits where people really enjoy seeing them," said McCann.
Red foxes thrive in the La Crosse area due to an abundance of food with a large population of rabbits and other small game. The Mississippi River provides a major water source for them year round.
Coulee Region Animal Control Supervisor Kathy Kasakaitas said seeing them is actually a stroke of luck most of the time.
"They are pretty secretive animals," Kasakaitas said. "It's always been a legend that if you happen to see them out playing that's supposed to be good luck for you."
McCann said the red fox plays a big role in controlling the population of small game.
"Certainly if you have rabbits in your yard eating your vegetables in the spring and summertime, these are the guys you want to have around," McCann said.
Unless they are cornered or threatened they don't pose a danger to humans or pets, but it's recommended that like any wild animal, they are given their space.
"The last thing we want to do is start bothering them," said McCann. "We don't need to feed them, they'll find food on their own. If you feed them, they just come around more and they could possibly cause problems."
Despite how cute and cuddly they may look, both the DNR and animal control stress that they are not pets.
"They are wild," Kasakaitas said. "They may be fine as little kits but as they grow up, that natural instinct will kick in."
When living close to humans, foxes will take the opportunity to eat garbage and pet food. Animal control does ask that no one leave food to attract them. and if you do have outdoor food sources, try to cover them up or move them inside when they're not being used.