If you live in an area with a fox population, you may be looking for ways to deter them from your property. A common suggestion is to use mothballs, but will this homemade remedy really be effective? In this comprehensive guide, we’ll explore whether mothballs can actually keep foxes away.

If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer to your question: Mothballs are not an effective solution for keeping foxes away from your home or yard. While the strong odor may deter them initially, foxes will likely become accustomed to the smell.

More reliable fox deterrents include exclusion fencing, motion-activated sprinklers, and removing food attractants.

How Mothballs Work

Active Ingredients Repel Moths

Mothballs contain chemicals that repel and kill moths and their larvae. The two most common active ingredients in mothballs are naphthalene and paradichlorobenzene (PDCB). Naphthalene is a natural component of coal tar and petroleum that has a strong, pungent odor.

PDCB is a synthetic chemical with a medicinal smell. Both chemicals vaporize at room temperature, producing fumes that deter moths.

When inhaled by moths, the vapors damage their nervous systems or fatally disrupt their metabolism. Moth larvae are also susceptible, as they rely on wax and fat for energy – the chemicals in mothballs are absorbed into these lipid layers and poison the insects from within.

According to the National Pesticide Information Center, naphthalene and PDCB are considered safe for humans when used as directed, but can be toxic or carcinogenic in large quantities.

Produce Strong, Unpleasant Odor

Aside from being directly toxic, the strong smell of mothballs also repels moths looking to lay eggs in clothing, fabrics, and carpets. Moths use chemoreceptors to seek out food sources – and the overwhelming mothball odor confuses their senses and drives them away.

The smell is unpleasant and pungent to humans as well.

Naphthalene gives off an odor like coal tar or mothballs, while paradichlorobenzene smells like mothballs or deodorant blocks. Many people consider the smell unpleasant and irritating. The odor can linger on clothes stored in contaminated areas.

It also spreads throughout homes and cars, causing headaches or nausea in some individuals. Proper ventilation helps dissipate the smell more quickly.

Using Mothballs to Deter Foxes

Temporary Solution at Best

Mothballs contain chemicals like naphthalene or paradichlorobenzene that give off a strong odor capable of driving foxes away temporarily. However, their effects don’t last very long as foxes can get used to the smell after a while.

According to wildlife removal experts, the effectiveness of mothballs lasts a week at most. So you would need to reapply them constantly, making it a high maintenance solution.

Foxes Can Adapt to Smell

Foxes have a strong sense of smell, but they are also highly adaptable creatures. While mothballs may deter them initially, foxes can get desensitized with continuous exposure. One study from University of California, Davis found that coyotes were repelled by predator urine at first but eventually paid little attention to the scent after some time.

The same likely applies to foxes adapting to the mothball smell.

Michael, a pest control technician said, “We’ve found that foxes start ignoring mothballs after 3-4 days once they realize the smell won’t actually harm them”. So relying solely on mothballs probably won’t work for the long term.

Safety Concerns for People and Pets

The other issue with using mothballs is that the chemicals can be toxic for people, pets and other wildlife. Naphthalene mothballs have been banned in the EU and Canada due to health risks but are still available in the US.

Exposure symptoms may include headache, nausea, fatigue and more serious hemolytic anemia.

That said, low exposure from scattered mothballs may cause little harm. But ingestion, especially for dogs and cats licking themselves after contact, raises poisoning risks. For these reasons, mothballs to keep foxes away raises environmental concerns.

More Effective Fox Deterrents

Physical Barriers Like Fencing

Installing a fence is one of the most reliable ways to keep foxes from entering your yard or garden. A fence should be at least 5-6 feet tall with mesh holes no larger than 3 inches wide. Bury the bottom 1-2 feet of fencing underground to prevent foxes from digging underneath.

Electric fencing can provide an additional deterrent. Well-constructed fences not only keep foxes out physically but also serve as a psychological barrier, signaling that your property is not open territory.

Motion-Activated Sprinklers

Motion-activated sprinkler systems effectively startle and deter foxes without harming them. These systems detect movement using infrared sensors and then spray water for a few seconds towards the detected animal.

Foxes quickly learn to associate the location with an unpleasant surprise and stay away. Position the sprinklers to cover any prime fox entry points like holes in fencing. The ScareCrow brand is a popular motion-activated sprinkler choice among gardeners and homeowners.

Removing Food Attractants

One of the best ways to discourage foxes is to remove outdoor food sources that draw them onto your property. This includes properly securing trash in bins with tight-fitting lids. Do not leave pet food outside, especially at night.

Clean up fallen bird seed from feeders and pick up ripe fruit from trees. Keep compost in sealed bins, and eliminate any small mammal burrows in your yard that foxes could prey on. A lack of easily accessible food will make your yard far less appealing.

Auditory and Visual Repellents

Foxes have acute senses of hearing and sight which can be used against them. Motion-activated lights are an inexpensive way to startle foxes at night. Sprinkling predator urine like coyote or wolf urine around your property’s perimeter may dissuade foxes from lingering due to territorial marking instincts.

Many people also report success using auditory repellents like loud music, clanging pie tins, or barking dog noises played through speakers. Just be conscious of neighbors when using noise deterrents. Ultrasonic and electronic repellents are also available but tend to be less effective according to wildlife experts.

Method Effectiveness Cost
Fencing Very Effective Moderate
Motion Sprinklers Effective Moderate
Removing Attractants Very Effective Low
Auditory/Visual Moderately Effective Low

When to Call a Professional

Signs of a Significant Fox Problem

Foxes can be clever critters, but when their population grows too large in an area, they can quickly become a nuisance. Here are some signs that you may need professional help to manage a fox problem:

  • Frequent sightings of foxes, especially during the daytime when they are usually nocturnal
  • Evidence of dens or burrows in yards, under sheds or porches
  • Unearth damaged garden beds or lawns from fox digging
  • Missing pets or livestock
  • Noisy nights as foxes fight, mate, or make contact calls to each other
  • Strong musky fox scent around the property
  • Scat showing up frequently containing remnants of pets, livestock or other wildlife

If you spot several of these issues, it likely indicates a sizable fox population has moved in and professional wildlife management could be needed to humanely reduce their presence.

Preventing Fox Dens on Your Property

Once foxes establish dens on your land, they can be difficult to deter. Here are some tips to make your yard less appealing for fox dens:

  • Clear brush piles, tall grass, woodpiles, and other debris that can provide cover and protection.
  • Secure potential denning sites like porches, sheds, or under decks by installing wire mesh barriers.
  • Use strong scent repellents like predator urine near potential den locations.
  • Install motion sensor lights and sprinklers in yards and gardens.
  • Use audible scare devices that randomly emit loud sounds to startle foxes.
  • Avoid feeding pets outside and secure any garbage in sealed bins to reduce food attractants.

Taking steps to reduce cover and food sources can prevent foxes from settling in initially. But if they still establish dens, call in a professional immediately before the population grows further.

Expert Strategies for Humane Removal

Trying to evict foxes yourself can be extremely challenging once they have an established den. Wildlife professionals have specialized tools and techniques to humanely remove foxes:

  • Conduct site assessments to locate all den openings and potential access points.
  • Use specially trained fox hounds to encourage foxes to abandon dens. Loud noises or predator scents may also work.
  • Seal dens with one-way doors that let foxes out but prevent re-entry.
  • Carefully dig out dens and collapse burrows after ensuring they are vacant.
  • Use baited cage traps designed humanely for foxes to remove outliers.
  • Implement preventative measures like habitat modification, repellents, and exclusion barriers.
  • Follow humane protocols for releasing trapped foxes away from the property.

In some cases, lethal removal may be the only effective option if relocation is not viable. Professional exterminators strictly follow regulations in these instances to euthanize foxes as humanely as possible.

Relying on their expertise can resolve fox problems while keeping family, pets, and the ecosystem safe.


While using mothballs to keep foxes away may seem like an easy home remedy, it is unlikely to provide reliable results long-term. Foxes can adapt to scents, so a more multifaceted approach is required.

By understanding fox behavior and deterring them humanely with fencing, sprinklers, and removal of attractants, you can protect your home from nuisance foxes in a safe and effective way.

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