FAQs - Tethering/Wildlife

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GENERAL INFORMATION
RABIES
COYOTES
FOXES

GENERAL INFORMATION  

1. What are the City of Fairfax's normal duty hours for Animal Officers?

Currently our Animal Control Officers typically work Monday through Saturday from 7:00 AM until 6:00 PM and are here half days on Sundays with rotating hours. After hours the non emergency police department number should still be contacted, 703-385-7924. For situations that require immediate response a Police Officer will respond initially then if needed an Animal Control Officer will be called in from home. General complaints will be followed up on as soon as an Animal Control Officer is on duty.

2. Why can't wild animals be trapped and taken to other locations?

It is illegal in the state of Virginia to trap and relocate wildlife. This is due to the possibility of spreading diseases that one territory of wildlife have become immune to into territories that have not been previously exposed to the same diseases (similar to the reasons why humans are often required to receive certain vaccines prior to travelling to other countries). Wild animals are also extremely territorial. They typically do not accept newcomers and will prevent them from nesting, denning, hunting or foraging for food. Releasing an animal into an area that it is not familiar with puts the animal in the position of not knowing where to find food or nesting sources. Add to that the fact that the animal will most likely be chased or attacked by the established members of that area and most often the outsider dies an inhumane death from starvation or hypothermia.

3. Will animal control trap and remove nuisance wildlife if requested?

No. Animal Control responds for sick, injured, orphaned, overly aggressive or overly friendly wildlife or wildlife that has made it's way into the living areas of a home or business. Animal Control will also respond in the event that a human or domestic animal has possibly been bitten or otherwise exposed to the saliva of a wild animal. Healthy wild wildlife that is trapped may only be released on the same property or euthanized. Orphans or injured non-rabies vectors may in some cases be transported to a licensed wildlife rehabilitator. If you do have a situation, such as any of the above, that requires immediate attention please contact our non-emergency police dispatch number 703-385-7924. If an animal control officer is not on duty a police officer will respond initially to determine if an animal control officer needs to be called out from home or if the situation can be dealt with in another safe and humane manner.

4. What if I still want the animal to be trapped and removed?

Trapping is only a temporary solution to a permanent problem. As long as the conditions exist in an area to support the survival of a certain species that species will always be there. If animals are removed from an area and the conditions that attracted them to that area in the first place are still present, other wildlife will fill the vacancies. Imagine what would become of your own home if you moved or passed away. Would it remain vacant or would someone else eventually move in? It is best to use deterrent methods to convince the animal that it does not want to live there. Once you are certain that animals are no longer present, areas such as attics, chimneys, and underneath of decks and sheds should be securely sealed. For further advice on how to deal with nuisance wildlife the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries Wildlife has a wildlife hotline manned by wildlife biologists Mondays through Fridays. That number is 1-855-571-9003. If the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries deems that due to exigent circumstances trapping is warranted they can provide residents with a list of licensed trappers in their area. 

5. What are some good ways to deter wild animals from areas around my home?

As human populations continue to rise and move into traditional wildlife habitats, human/wildlife contact is becoming more prevalent.

Below are some easy techniques which will usually solve the problem and prevent it from re-occurring:

  • If you are feeding wildlife, stop. This will cause them to lose their natural fear of humans and often leads to an animal having to be euthanized due to aggressive behavior towards humans in their expectation of being fed. The feeding of wildlife is also illegal in the sate of Virginia.
  • If possible keep trash cans inside a shed, garage or other enclosure until the morning of trash pick-up or place trash in an animal proof container, such as a trash can with handles that latch over top of the lids. Hinged metal latches can be purchased at local hardware stores and easily attached to most trash receptacles. 
  • Do not leave pet food outside; keep pet feeding areas clean. If you must feed domestic animals outdoors, do so during daylight hours and pick up any remaining food after 20-30 minutes.
  • Remove bird feeders when problem species, such as bears, have been seen around them.
  • Close up all openings under and into your buildings. Animals look for safe dry places to nest and raise their young. Don’t give them that opportunity. To a wild animal underneath sheds and decks and inside chimneys or attics are safe dry places for wildlife to raise their young while keeping them protected from other wildlife. Chimneys should be securely capped and outside structures should be sealed at the base and at least 1-2 feet into the ground.
  • Clear overhanging tree limbs and branches which may be providing wildlife access to structures.
  • Clear fallen fruit from around trees.
  • Pass along this information to your neighbors. If anyone in the neighborhood is feeding wildlife directly, or indirectly, it can cause trouble for everyone.
  • Reflective tape, lights, or loud noises sometimes work, but some wildlife will eventually grow accustomed to these methods, so these are only temporary solutions. Again once it is certain that no animals are present inviting areas should be properly sealed.
  • A radio playing and a bottle of apple cider vinegar placed inside a fireplace will often convince mother raccoons nesting of top of the flue to move her babies to another nest sooner than later. A secure cap should be installed at the top of the chimney once it is certain no animals are still living inside.
  • Electric wire fencing can be very effective in keeping wildlife out of crops, beehives or other structures and is relatively inexpensive.
  • Mesh fencing can be placed over the tops of bushes and ornamental plants.
  • Wrap trees and down spouts with chicken wire at least 3 feet high from the base.
  • When placed inside one opening of a den, rags soaked with apple cider vinegar and/or used kitty litter work well for convincing wildlife mothers and their babies to move out sooner than later. Again, once all animals have left, the area needs to be properly secured to prevent future use.
  • It is illegal in the State of Virginia to trap and relocate wildlife to another area.

Animal Control does not typically deal with nuisance wildlife or healthy wildlife that is outdoors where it belongs. 

If you are experiencing a problem with nuisance wildlife, please contact the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries wildlife conflict helpline at 1-855-571-9003.

 If a wild animal appears to be sick, injured, overly aggressive, overly friendly or is actually inside the living or business areas of a structure contact Animal Control immediately, 703-385-7924.

 

5. What should I do if I find an injured or infant wild animal?

Do not try to capture or pick it up. Often infant wildlife will be left alone for long periods while their mothers search for food. If an infant animal does not appear to be sick or injured and is not posing an immediate threat leave it be. The mother will likely return. Often they will not return until long after dark and only when the area is quiet and free of potential threats. Uninjured infant birds can be placed back in their nests. If you know that the mother is deceased or she has not returned with in 12 hours then the infant may in fact need outside assistance. If an unclaimed infant or an injured wild animal is not posing a threat place a box, bucket or other sturdy container over top of it to protect it from predators and to keep humans from having contact with it. Contact Animal control if it is during their duty hours, 703-385-7924. In the evenings and on holidays the Wildlife Rescue League can be contacted at 703-440-0800. If the animal is a common rabies vector such as a raccoon, fox, skunk, coyote, ground hog, or bat and it has possibly bitten or been in contact with humans or pets contact Animal Control or the Police Department immediately, 703-385-7924.

6. Is there anything I can do about stray cats coming into my yard?

The City of Fairfax does not have a leash law or a license law for cats. Cat’s can only be picked up by Animal Control if they are sick, injured, infant, known positively to have been abandoned, there's an immediate danger to a human's or the cat's life, health or safety, or if the cat has bitten someone and the owner cannot be located to properly confine the cat. Homeowners do have the right to remove stray animals from their property by humanely trapping them and transporting them to the City of Fairfax Animal Shelter, located at 9836 Fairfax Blvd., Fairfax, VA 22030.

7. Where is the City of Fairfax animal shelter?

The City of Fairfax has a contract with Town and Country Animal Hospital to act as our holding facility/animal shelter. Town and Country Animal Hospital is located at 9836 Fairfax Blvd., Fairfax, VA 22030. Phone 703-273-2110.   

8. Can I drop an unwanted animal off at the City's shelter?

Yes. However, due to our small size the City of Fairfax is not capable of accommodating large numbers of owner releases or stray cats trapped by citizens. We recommend when ever possible that owners needing to relinquish a pet attempt to work with local rescue groups prior to dropping their pet off at the City's Animal Shelter. Our Animal Control Division can provide relinquishing owners with many breed appropriate rescue groups to contact. 

9. Should I go to Town and Country if my pet has been transported there by Animal Control or a private citizen?

Pet owners must first respond to the Police Department, located at 3730 Old Lee Highway, Fairfax, VA 22030, with their pets rabies certificate, City of Fairfax or Fairfax County dog license if applicable, and either a check or exact cash to cover the pick up and boarding fees. Animal redemptions can be made between 7:00 AM and 8:00 PM on weekdays and from 7:00 AM until 5:00 PM on Saturdays. Animals are not released on Sundays or holidays. The animal pick-up fee is $25 plus $25 boarding for each partial day that the animal is in custody. If your pet does not have a current rabies vaccination one will be administered by a veterinarian at Town and Country Animal Hospital at the owners expense. This fee is paid separately from the boarding and pick-up fees. Contact the police department’s non-emergency number prior to responding if you would like further instructions and the exact amount of payment required, 703-385-7924.

10. Will animal control remove snakes?

Animal Control will only remove wild snakes that are in the living areas of your home. Native snakes that are outside should be left alone. Animal Control will pick up domestic/pet/exotic snakes which have escaped from their homes. 

11. What should I do if I see a wild snake in my yard?

The best thing to do is to leave it alone. They are just as afraid of us as we are of them and will go on their way if not threatened. If the snake is in a location where it is blocking an entrance to your home or vehicle, spraying it with a garden hose will typically convince it to move along. As long as a snake or other wild animal has an escape route they will generally take that rather than moving towards humans or other animals. Never corner a snake or any other animal as that will force them to defend themselves rather than retreating. 

12. But aren't snakes poisonous and a danger to my children or pets?

The only venomous snake native to Northern Virginia is the copperhead snake. Mostly, what we see in the City of Fairfax are black rat snakes, brown rat snakes, Northern Virginia water snakes, mole snakes, and garter snakes. These are all non-venomous and not a threat. Most snakes will only bite if provoked or cornered. If you leave them alone they will leave you alone. 

RABIES
 
1. How is rabies transmitted? 

Rabies is only transmitted through the saliva of an infected animal. When a human or animal has contact with an infected animal's saliva through a bite wound or by saliva entering an existing open wound or mucous membrane (i.e. mouth, lips, eyes) than an exposure has occurred. 

2. What are some signs of rabies?

Falling down, stumbling, walking in circles, wobbly or off balance, walking with head hung down, snapping and barking at the air, hissing, snarling, growling, overly aggressive or overly friendly, and wandering or running toward people rather than away. Choking and salivating are not seen until the later stages of rabies, usually when the animal is no longer mobile.

3. What should I do if I am bitten by a wild animal?

Contact Animal Control and your physician immediately. Wash the bite area thoroughly with warm water and soap. If the animal is immobile and you can safely do so place a bucket or other solid container over top of it. Do not try to capture or handle an aggressive animal yourself. Do try to stay aware of the animal's location if possible. Animal Control will make every attempt to capture biting wildlife in order for rabies testing to be performed.

4. What animals carry rabies?

Only mammals can contract rabies. Those most likely to be seen with rabies or to spread the rabies virus are raccoons, foxes, skunks, coyotes, bats, and ground hogs. Stray/wild dogs and stray unvaccinated cats are also at high risk. Small rodents such as squirrels, mice, and rats are not considered to be common rabies carriers.

5. Is it true that all raccoons, foxes, etc. have rabies?

No. Although these animals are susceptible to contracting rabies it does not mean that they all are carrying the rabies virus. Also, animals are only infectious to humans and other animals from the onset of symptoms up until the time of death. The amount of time between the onset of symptoms and the time of death is typically 7 days. When an animal has been exposed to rabies it can take anywhere from several weeks to several months for the animal to actually develop symptoms of the virus. They are not infectious to other animals or humans during that incubation period.

6. What should I do if I find a bat in my house?

Contact Animal Control immediately (703-385-7924). Try and stay aware of the bat’s location. If it is safe for you to do so place a bucket or solid container over top of the bat and then place a heavy object on top of the container. Do not remove or release a bat outside without first contacting Animal Control or the Fairfax County Health Department (703-246-6004) to determine whether or not you are at risk of a rabies exposure. Bats have very small/sharp teeth. Bite wounds from bats may not be noticed if the individual bitten was sleeping or otherwise unable to tell anyone about the possibility of them having had contact with the bat (i.e. small children, persons who are intoxicated or mentally handicapped, and pets).

 7. Is it true that post-exposure rabies vaccinations for humans are given in the abdomen in a series of 20 or more shots and are extremely painful?

That use to be true. However, the vaccines have been improved dramatically over the years. They are now given in the arm muscle and are typically no worse than a tetanus shot. The number of shots given has also been greatly reduced (by more than half).

8. When should someone receive post-exposure vaccines?

The final determination should be made by the individual’s physician and their local health department (Fairfax County Health Department Ph: 703-246-6004). Anyone who has been bitten by a potentially rabid animal or has possibly had contact with the saliva of a rabid animal through an open wound or mucous membrane would be at risk.

9. What should I do if I think I may have been exposed?

Immediately wash any wounds, or areas where saliva may have made contact, with warm water and soap. Contact Animal Control in order to try and have the animal captured for rabies testing or quarantined if it's a domestic animal. If it is safe to do so place a solid container over top of the animal and then place a heavy object on top of the container. If it is not safe to try and place a container over top of the animal, try and keep track of where the animal is or it's direction of travel. Contact your physician and your local health department (Fairfax County Health Department Ph: 703-246-6004) to determine the proper protocol for post-exposure vaccinations.

COYOTES

1. Are there coyotes in the City of Fairfax?

Yes. Coyotes were first sighted around the tank farm and Daniel's Run in 2001. They have gradually migrated and are now being reported throughout the entire City.

2. Are they a danger?

Typically, coyotes are only a danger to humans in the rare cases where one is rabid, if they are cornered or when small children or large dogs wander too close to their dens during pup season. Coyotes will however, eat cats, small dogs, and other small pets. Coyotes do most of their hunting at night. Cats and small pets should be kept indoors, especially at night. Dogs should not be left outdoors unattended. Children and pets should be kept away from known den areas during pup season (late February through late September). Citizens are also reminded that dogs must be leashed and under their owner's immediate control when not on their owners property. It is especially important that dogs remain leashed and close to their owners when walking in areas where coyotes might be present. A dog roaming loose near a coyote den during pup season is much more likely to be seen as a threat by a coyote than one that is being properly restrained. 

3. Can’t anything be done to remove them?

Not safely. They are very elusive and are difficult to trap humanely or safely. Relocating wildlife is illegal in the state of Virginia. Even if coyotes could be safely captured and removed, as long as the environmental conditions exist to support their survival in the area others will quickly fill the vacancies. Most species of wildlife will inhabit an area with what ever numbers that area can sustain. When the population level drops below that number those opening are generally filled by young recently maturing animals that were not accepted in their original home environment or by an increase in the size of litters/number of pups being born to each female. This creates a much younger and less stable population.

4. What should I do if I spot a coyote?

Make a lot of noise. Stomp your feet, yell, clap and throw items such as sticks or stones in order to get the coyote to go on it's way. Carrying a whistle, blow horn or can of compressed air (such as those used for cleaning computers and key boards) can also be helpful. Coyote/human confrontations most commonly take place shortly after dusk and shortly before dawn. It is especially important to be aware of your surroundings and be prepared to use scare tactics when walking during these hours.

5. Can coyotes be scared off?

Yes. They are generally non-confrontational and can easily be scared off by the above methods. Coyotes who have not been given reasons to fear humans will often become much bolder and more likely to closely follow or approach humans. The above scare tactics are often referred to as coyote hazing. Once a coyote is conditioned to the fact that it does need to fear humans, they become much less likely to follow or approach humans in the future. If scare tactics are unsuccessful, a coyote does in fact attempt to approach you, whether in an aggressive manner or in an overly friendly manner or if it appears to be sick or injured Animal Control should be contacted immediately, 703-385-7924. 

6. Are there any benefits to having coyotes in the area?

Yes. Coyotes help to normalize other wild life populations that have become overgrown such as Canadian geese and rats.

FOXES

1. If I see a fox out during the day time doesn't that mean it's rabid?

No. Although foxes are considered to be nocturnal they will frequently come out during the day to sun themselves and look for alternative food sources. Also, over the years foxes have been shifting their habits more to daytime hours in order not to compete with the growing population coyotes during their peek hunting hours.

2. What if I see a fox that has little or no hair?

These foxes have mange mites. Mange is an ailment caused by tiny mites under the skin. Normally these foxes are very thin, will have scabs or open sores, and scratch a lot. These foxes are even more likely to be seen out during the day as they are no longer able to hunt and do not have enough body fat to keep warm. They are frequently seen curled up in yards sunning themselves. They will also come out during the day to look for alternate food sources as the odor to their skin and their weak condition leave them unable to hunt or compete with healthy wild life. Mange is an ailment that is specific to all canine species. However, most healthy adult domestic dogs who have been vaccinated regularly are immune to them. In fact many domestic dogs already carry the mites but do not become afflicted with mange. Small unvaccinated puppies or dogs whose immune systems are otherwise compromised should not be housed outdoors where fox and coyote populations are known to exist.

3. Are these mangy foxes a danger?

No. They are more of a nuisance than a threat. They are not prone to attack and will normally scamper off if disturbed. Clapping your hands or stomping your feet is usually enough to get them to move along. If the fox does not leave, or is unable to leave, contact Animal Control. Mange is an ailment that is specific to all canine species. However, most healthy adult domestic dogs who have been vaccinated regularly are immune to them. In fact many domestic dogs already carry the mites but do not become afflicted with mange. Small unvaccinated puppies or dogs whose immune systems are otherwise compromised should not be housed outdoors where fox and coyote populations are known to exist.

For additional information contact our Animal Control Division at 703-385-7919. For emergencies or situations that require immediate attention contact our Police Dispatch at 703-385-7924.