I read with interest Kathryn Reshetiloff’s Bay Naturalist column, “Red fox’s adaptability to humans helps to make it more widespread” (January-February 2002).

She may have painted their lifestyle in suburbia a little too rosy. After finding a dead fox in our backyard shed a few winters ago, my family and I learned from Animal Control personnel that mange is both common and a frequent cause of death in foxes of Montgomery County, MD. It is a debilitating skin disease that left untreated will lead to a slow and painful death.

The Animal Control personnel suggested it was a natural mechanism for controlling population cycles: When foxes get too abundant, more of them contract mange and the population declines until the disease subsides.

Because mange is so persistent in Montgomery County foxes, I wondered at the time about the possible connection to the ever-widening loss of habitat quantity/quality (from development) in the area.

It would be interesting to learn more about suburban wildlife and their incidences of disease in the Chesapeake area.

Claire Buchanan
Interstate Commission on the Potomac River Basin