Visitors at the Norman J. Levy Park and Preserve in Merrick have been finding more than just the usual turtles and songbirds roaming around the grounds.
Red foxes are now among the wildlife that visitors and park rangers have spotted along the trails.
“The theory is that they came up from the South shore beaches or they came down the Meadowbrook [Parkway] from the North Shore,” said Michael McConnell, deputy commissioner of sanitation at the park.
Regular reports of fox sightings started when a family of eight foxes was discovered in the park about two years ago. But park officials have not been able to pinpoint the exact number of foxes living in the preserve.
“I would estimate that there are a total of about 10,” McConnell said. “But it’s very hard to keep count on them because you can see one fox, and then another fox and another fox, and you can count them, but you’re not sure whether you’ve seen the same fox three times.”
Although these fox sightings are relatively new, the furry red mammals are prevalent around most of Long Island, including Jones Beach, according to wildlife biologist Chip Hamilton of the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation.
Foxes are nocturnal and are easiest to spot when Levy Park opens at 7 a.m. However, they have occasionally been seen hunting for food during the day. If you’re looking for a good spot to see them, “open fields would be best,” according to Hamilton.
The park discourages visitors from approaching and feeding the foxes.
“They’re wild animals and they should be treated as such, just like the other animals on the preserve,” McConnell said.