4 Surprising Smells That Foxes Can’t Stand

Red Fox Standing in Field With "4 Smells That Foxes Hate" Text Overlay

Foxes are usually classified as wild animals as opposed to pests. However, when in the wrong place at the wrong time, foxes can pose a nuisance to your property and a serious threat to your livestock. As foxes have a superb nose which gives them an excellent sense of smell, we identified the scents they just can’t stand and how you can use them for your protection. You might be surprised.

Foxes have a strong sense of smell, which they use to find accessible food sources. You can take advantage of this trait by using scents they dislike, such as chili and cayenne pepper (which are made up of Capsaicin), garlic, white vinegar, and the scent of humans nearby.

Before we take a deeper look at the smells which serve to bombard a fox’s nose, you might wonder why a little, pointy-eared, long furred, narrow snouted, clever-looking animal would pose a nuisance to your property, to begin with. Therefore, we identify the reasons why you might want to repel a fox in the first place. Let’s have a look together…

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Why Do You Need to Keep Foxes Out?

Foxes are part of our beloved family of dogs, also referred to as Canidae – which has nothing to do with Canada – but actually comes from the Latin (canis) for dog.

Interesting fact: Although today they walk on all continents, the first traces of dog-like fossils come from Europe. It is said that foxes originated from wolves, whom were domesticated in Europe some 19 000 to 32 000 years ago.

Unlike dogs, foxes are mainly living in the wild. Although there have been several attempts to try and tame a fox, the results were generally unfavorable. Some animals are just not suitable for domestication. Overall, foxes stay in a pack of animals that prefer to keep amongst themselves. They get nervously shy amongst humans, and tend to become more aggressive as they age.

Interesting fact: Some experiments have successfully managed to domesticate a fox, most notably the red fox and silver fox. However, it must be noted that there is no sustained domestication; we are talking about isolated cases only. 

As foxes are wild animals, it goes without saying that their behavior remains unpredictable to a high degree. But how else do they form a nuisance to your property and comfort?

  • Foxes vs. Livestock: Do you have livestock? Want to keep it that way? Of course, foxes can form a threat to your domestic animals in general – they won’t shy away from a juicy chicken or a jumpy rabbit. Even worse, they might even prey on your pets, such as the fish in the bowl or the cat in the three. As natural predators, sneaky as they are, they can easily find a way to prey on your livestock. Foxes will tend to live near areas with food sources like this.
  • Foxes vs. Compost: Ever caught a fox in your compost heap? It can happen, and when it does, you might have to hire a full cleanup team to transform your property… Indeed, foxes can make a mess of your nest. They will become attracted by the leftovers, whatever they may be. Installing a proper compost bin – or support structure of any kind – might make things a bit more complex for them.
  • Foxes vs. Plants: Although they prefer to eat prey whenever the occasion allows them to, foxes are known as omnivores. This means they will feed on basically anything, from a piece of meat to a pile of seeds. Therefore they will not shy away from tasting the plants in your garden. Furthermore, they might dig holes to get to the roots and worms in the ground underneath.
  • Foxes vs. Fruits & Vegetables: A fox might also feast on your fruits and vegetables. Favorites on the menu are usually a serving of berries, apples, pears, seeds, grains, and fungi. This means they might pose a severe threat to your harvest and general life in the garden.
  • Foxes vs. Garden Maintenance: In the end, it foxes versus everything. They can grab your livestock, dig up every plant they can find, and leave your garden in a state of ruin.
Red Fox Standing In Snow

In short, foxes will fall in love with a rich and diverse garden, even more so when there is trash and a compost heap, especially when there is livestock available. As such, they can pose a severe burden when it comes to maintaining your property clean.

Now that we know what we are up against, are you ready to become as sly as a fox? Let’s dive into the 4 ways you can repel a fox right under their nose!

Before we get to that point, I highly recommend taking a look at our guide on WHAT to do if you’ve seen a fox in your yard as if you’re here, you’ve probably seen a fox or two run facross your yard 🙂

Hot Pepper Keeps Foxes Away

To outsmart a fox by way of smell, we start our list with a classic amongst repellents by looking into the Piperaceae, or in other words, the family of peppers.

What is particularly frightening for a fox is the pepper’s main ingredient, Capsaicin. This primary, active ingredient gives peppers its characteristic of being hot and spicy, with a burning sensation afterward. This is especially so for animals with a heightened sense of taste and smell, such as our little furry friends in red.

Interesting fact: Although Capsaicin is off-putting and generally inedible for many mammals, it is apparently undetectable by birds.

Incredibly potent, although none lethal, are the chili peppers we eat from North America to the shores of India. Bombarding a predator’s nose has never worked better than with the use of some chili pepper.

Indeed, it is a classic and frequently used against animals of a similar kind, such as coyotes. Overall, pepper carries a punch due to its high pungency and intensity. That said, it is not entirely bullet-proof, as in, the results remain somewhat mixed.

This is because there are various circumstances – especially the weather – in which the pepper may not have its wanted effect.

Quick tip: Mix chili or cayenne powder with some water, and spray your garden, especially around the places where they tend to make holes, such as your vegetables, etc. However, it’s likely to wash away in case of rain, so this method does require reapplying if need be.

Use a Solution of White Vinegar

Much like wolves and coyotes, foxes are known to dislike the scent of white vinegar. Although usually reserved for cooking or baking, cleaning, or washing, it is also used for predator control.

White vinegar contains a lot of acetic acid – which sounds as bad as it tastes – and therefore carries a strong and potent smell. It is usually advised to spray it around your property, dampen it in a cloth, or make use of a bowl filled with vinegar.

Perhaps it can also be used by mixing it with chili pepper, a recipe for disaster indeed. However, still not that effective. Truth be, it must again be constantly reapplied. Therefore it is actually best to make a ready-use spray, a timesaver for sure. In the end, a mix of strategies will prove to be most effective.

A solid, ready-to-be-sprayed bulk vinegar solution is Natural Armor Vinegar Industrial Strength Concentrate and contains 30% vinegar concentrate.

The Lingering Smell of Garlic Can Deter Foxes

Now, one does not often include garlic in a list of none cooking or vampire-inspired content. Yet here we are, talking about foxes, and we cannot go around the wonders of garlic. Yes, garlic is as effective for a fox nose as it is on a first date. But does that mean a fox will repel, entirely? Not likely.

Red Fox Standing Up Close In Backyard Garden

What is often suggested is to cut and boil garlic to extract more of its essence. As you may know, when crushing garlic, a chemical compound called alliinase is released. This produces a strong scent, which is actually part of a plant’s defense.

Fun fact: Halitosis, which relates to having bad breath, is sometimes also referred to as garlic breath, which is not to be confused with garlic bread.

Surprisingly enough, there are already a few ready-made garlic sprays on the market. For more information, you can have a look at the following spray: Garlic Barrier Insect Repellent.

Quick tip: Try boiling some raw garlic with chili pepper, add some vinegar to the mix, and you’ve got a party-ready to create a nuisance for a fox or two.

The Scent of Humans Will Repel Foxes!

As much as foxes use their nose to identify that which fills their hungry belly, they are keen to spot danger by way of scent. Therefore it is perhaps most effective, to make use of the scent of danger, or in other words, the smell of a predator.

First of all, foxes are known to be shy when it comes to human contact. This is perhaps further accommodated because they are nocturnal animals wandering silently through the night. Therefore, foxes do not readily stand the scent of humans.

Surprisingly enough, the most effective scent we have in our arsenal is the smell of urine. The method of using urine is also used against other predators, so there’s an excuse for you not to use the toilet inside, just once.

Other scents which might relate to human danger are the odors of strong perfumes. Genuinely, as perfume is highly artificial – being made up in a lab out of a bunch of chemicals – it is ‘human’, and not a smell which a fox will naturally favor.

However, what would be even more effective would be to use the urine of a natural predator, a wolf, for instance. As the wolf is a common enemy of the fox, it goes without saying that a wolf’s urine can serve as a warning signal to our clever subject. As such, using wolf’s urine can be an excellent technique to lure a fox away.

For more information on using a predator’s scent, feel free to have a look at Predator Pee 100% Wolf Urine.

Even if you don’t use Predator Pee, make sure you look out for another 100% urine formula, as some products can be heavily diluted and not give off a strong scent.

Are Foxes Really a Pest?

Whether you landed on this page due to your continuous sense of curiosity or whether you are currently playing cat and mouse with a sly fox in your backyard, it is essential to understand why these dog-like, reddish animals are, at times, seen as a pest.

In general, it should be clear that all animals can be considered as a pest.

Overall, an animal becomes defined as a pest whenever the animal in question poses a destructive threat towards people, property, and livestock, etc. Therefore, what passes as a pest relates to the relationship between species and the circumstances we find ourselves in, as opposed to connecting to the animal itself.

Indeed, dogs are our number one pets, but wild dogs are also known pests. As such, even an elephant outside its natural habitat can form a pest for local farmers in Africa or Asia, when trampling crops.

Even Australia’s beloved kangaroos are classified as pests, as their occupation of grassland is from time to time seen as unwelcome competition for farmland. The same goes for foxes, as they sometimes wander around the countryside in North America, scavenging for food and shelter.

Additional Tips & Tricks for Repelling Foxes

  • Keep your property clean: This is the golden rule and will surely help. Especially make sure to take the trash out and cover the compost heap. It is also essential to make sure to clean any signs of previous fox visits to your backyard, as the scent of a fox will attract another and another…
  • Block the entry: Block any open passages to prevent access from any side. Signs of entry usually come in the form of a neatly carved hole in the ground. Make sure to fill the gaps again tightly. You might even want to cover the holes as to prevent them from using the same passage again.
  • Put up a fence: Perhaps you want to consider putting up a fence if you haven’t done so already. This can be done by using chicken wire and placing it a few inches into the ground – to prevent them from digging under it. It goes without saying that this is a must when having livestock.
  • Scare techniques: You could try using sensors, alarms, and lights, although they might scare the neighbors as well. Of course, it is incredibly annoying for nocturnal animals. In the end, to make use of a scarecrow of sorts might be more appropriate, albeit less alarming.
  • Build a bird nest: If you are aware that birds are frequently harboring in your garden or around your property, you might want to consider building a bird nest. Foxes can eat both birds and bird seeds. This means that they will have less reason to venture into your garden when the birds are tidy and cozy away out of sight.

Whenever in doubt, please don’t hesitate to call your local animal control. You can also choose to contact our nationwide network of pest and wildlife control professionals to find a contractor near you within a matter of seconds.

Thanks again for reading! For more information concerning foxes, right here on Pest Pointers, make sure to look at our guide on using a radio to deter foxes!


Baker, S. E., & Macdonald, D. W. (2000). Foxes and foxhunting on farms in Wiltshire: a case study. Journal of Rural Studies.

Baylis, S., Cassey, P., (2012) Capsaicin as a deterrent against introduced mammalian nest predators. The Wilson Journal of Ornithology.

Fox, M. W. (1975). The wild canids: their systematics, behavioral ecology and evolution. RE Krieger.

Marvin, G. (2000). The problem of foxes: legitimate and illegitimate killing. Natural enemies: People-wildlife conflicts in anthropological perspective.

Saunders, G., & Brian; Kinnear Jack., (1995). Managing vertebrate pests: foxes. Canberra, Australia: Australian Government Publ. Service.

Trut, L., Oskina, I., & Kharlamova, A. (2009). Animal evolution during domestication: the domesticated fox as a model.

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