How to deter foxes from your yard and garden, without harming them

Find out how to deter foxes from your yard – humanely

Close up of a red fox in a garden in summer
(Image credit: Dgwildlife / Getty)

If you need to find out how to deter foxes from your yard or garden, you have our sympathies. Foxes are beautiful and fascinating animals – they're also notorious for causing mischief in residential backyards... If you've discovered that, once again, a fox has chewed on your outdoor shoes/garden hose, has pooped in one of your plant pots or spread your trash everywhere... Or if you're simply fed up with your entire backyard smelling of fox, it's time to act. 

Fortunately, it's not actually that difficult to deter foxes from your outdoor space – they are quite shy and like routine, so once you've disrupted it, they will leave. Then, you can get on with exploring your favorite backyard ideas

1. Tidy your yard

This should always be your first step no matter which animal you're trying to deter from frequenting your backyard. Ethan Howell, Co-Owner of Florida Environmental (opens in new tab),  advises to 'remove any trash that may be drifting around, and keep it tidy in general.' Basically, 'foxes will not return if they have no reason to' – remove all potential sources of food and it's highly likely that that's all it will take. The same goes with trash cans, ensure they are closed securely to stop 'attractive' smells to foxes.

2. Clean up their faeces 

Howell further explains that 'If you have a fox problem, they will, sadly, leave faeces. Make sure you pick these up on a regular basis, which we understand isn't the most pleasurable task - you'll also need to thoroughly hose clean the area.' You will want to get rid of the smell anyway, so this step is essential. You will need the best garden hose you can find for this task, preferably one with a high-pressure setting on its nozzle. 

Red fox in backyard

(Image credit: Sarah Goldsmith / Alamy Stock Photo)

3. Move things around

Foxes are creatures of habit. As Howell puts it, they 'prefer familiarity, so make sure you relocate your gnomes, hose, or whatever you're using to disrupt the environment.' 

Pol Bishop, a gardening expert working for Fantastic Gardeners (opens in new tab), adds that 'it’s a good idea to change the appearance of the garden as frequently as possible', so try reshuffling your plant pots and patio furniture several times. 

4. Mow the lawn and keep hedges trimmed

Trust us when we say: the foxes who come to your yard don't want you to see them. So, given a choice between a neat backyard with a manicured lawn and tidy borders and one that's overgrown, they'll always choose the overgrown one where they can hide. So, invest in the best lawn mower and hedge trimmer to keep on top of your backyard maintenance. 

Fox napping on a lawn

(Image credit: Matthew Kyte / Alamy Stock Photo)

5. Obstruct their resting spaces

Sometimes a fox may like your backyard because they've found a secluded resting place there. Howell advises that foxes 'prefer shaded locations' and recommends placing 'a large object that they can't move on an area where they usually bed down and find comfortable.' A large plant pot or water butt, or compost bin will do the job. 

6. Try the urine trick

A last-resort method, this one, but if you're desperate, Bishop recommends '- pouring 'male urine in the places where the fox regularly spends time.' Foxes are territorial and don't like their scent disrupted by human smells. Maybe not the best long-term solution, but worth a try if nothing else has worked yet. 

7. Add lights

Bishop tells us: 'Foxes hate light. They will often get spooked and run away if any sudden lighting appears. I strongly recommend investing in a sensitive motion sensor light (opens in new tab) and attach it close to where the fox often goes. It’s a very effective way to deter them from your garden.' The best outdoor security lights will come in handy here. 

8. Or try a motion spinkler

'A water repellent system will startle a fox and make it uncomfortable', Bishop says. 'These sprinklers are easy to install and use. Foxes that go by them will get an unpleasant surprise and hopefully run away.' The Sea pioneer Garden Sprinkler, Automatic Lawn Water Sprinkler available on Amazon (opens in new tab) has a 4.5-star rating and is super basic to get up and running.

Fox and cub in garden duding summertime with long grass

(Image credit: felix / Alamy Stock Photo)

9. Attach a fence roller to your fence

'Place a fence roller (from Amazon) (opens in new tab) on top of your fence, so when they jump up, they won’t be able to grip onto anything and will fall off. However, despite their effectiveness, fence rollers are a bit on the expensive side and are also difficult to install.'

10. Try pickle strips

If foxes keep digging in your yard, you can try embedding pickle strips in the soil or grass – they 'will make foxes uncomfortable to walk on. Make sure you wear shoes if you decide to install those in your garden.' Pickle strips, or scat mats (opens in new tab), are plastic mats with spikes on them – don't worry, they're not sharp enough to cause injury, but unpleasant enough to prevent unwanted digging. 

What smell do foxes dislike?

Although smells are not all that effective at keeping foxes out of your yard, you can try spraying your lawn with garlic and cayenne pepper. Just be aware that you'll also be able to smell the garlic! You can find granules online (opens in new tab) which are handy for intruder cats too...

Do foxes harm people? 

No. There are many myths about urban foxes and some people are afraid of them, but foxes are wild animals even when they live in built-up areas and are much more afraid of you than you are of them. Occasionally, a fox that has grown up around people will be less wary and may approach if you offer them food (which you shouldn't do), but that's about it. Foxes are not aggressive animals by nature, so it is extremely unlikely that they would harm you.   

If you are in the US, you should be aware that some foxes carry rabies, but far less frequently than raccoons or skunks. In the UK, urban foxes do not pose any risk of rabies, with the last case of canine rabies reported in 1902. 

Will foxes harm my pets?

It depends on what animals you keep as pets. Foxes are predators and won't say no to a chicken, rabbit, or hamster – if you keep these animals are pets (or you have an urban farm), you have to keep them in a secured enclosure at night.

As for your cats or dogs, it is very rare for a fox to attack these domestic pets. Occasionally, a fox may go for a kitten or puppy, or a very old cat, but when it comes to healthy adult pets, they are unlikely to even approach them. This author's cat has successfully chased many (terrified) foxes out of the garden.

Anna is Content Editor at Real Homes. She moved to the world of interiors from academic research in the field of English Literature and photography. She is the author of London Writing of the 1930s and has a passion for contemporary home decor and gardening. At Real Homes, she covers a range of topics, from practical advice to interior and garden design. 

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