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June 14, 2012

Injured Fox Kit a Lesson in Patience, Cooperation

Cape Wildlife Center and Tufts University heals, rehabilitates a badly injured young fox

The Humane Society of the United States / The Fund for Animals

  • The young fox kit in recovery. The HSUS

  • The x-ray reveals his broken leg bone. The HSUS

When wildlife make your home their home, sometimes waiting is the best approach. A young fox kit recovering from a badly-broken leg at our Cape Wildlife Center may have avoided injury altogether if a little patience had been practiced.

The cost of ignoring a humane solution

Earlier this spring, the owner of a Cape Cod boatyard wasn't pleased to find a mother fox had built her den beneath a trailer on his property. He called on local animal control officials for help. The officers advised the boatyard owner to be patient, because it is almost always best to leave animals in their natural habitats, and because the fox family would move on as soon as the young foxes—called kits—were able to fend for themselves. In the meantime, the foxes would provide a free service at the boatyard: rodent control.

Instead of heeding the officers' advice, the boatyard owner pressure-washed the trailer, which terrified the foxes. One of the infants fled to a nearby chain-link fence, and tried to scramble up it. Panicked, his leg got caught in the chain link, and he badly fractured a long bone.

“Instead of waiting and tolerating the foxes for just a little while longer, the animals were put in danger, and this little kit paid the price,” says John Griffin, who directs Washington D.C.’s Humane Wildlife Services, a for-fee wildlife conflict resolution service that is a program of The Humane Society of the United States. “These animals are part of the natural ecosystem—surely we can accommodate them a little until they relinquish their den and move on.”

“In our work solving wildlife conflicts we think it is important to equip the public with information that will prevent wildlife from being orphaned or harmed unnecessarily, like this kit was,” Griffin adds.

A partnership in healing

The fox was taken to The HSUS’ Cape Wildlife Center in Barnstable, Mass., for treatment. After examining the kit’s injured leg, veterinarian Dr. Roberto Aguilar realized that the break would require specialized surgery and care, since the bones weren’t fully formed yet. He reached out to his colleagues Drs. Flo-Tseng and Maureen Murray at the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University in North Grafton, Mass.

One of the board-certified orthopedic surgeons at Tufts repaired the fox's leg, and the staff and veterinary students at the school’s Wildlife Clinic nursed him through recovery. They kept a close eye on how the fractured bone healed with regular checkups and x-rays.

After spending more than a month at Tufts, the fox had healed well enough to allow the him to move to a larger enclosure for rehabilitation.

He is now back at Cape Wildlife Center, living in an outdoor enclosure prior to his release.

“Once the fox gets used to being outdoors,” Aguilar says, “we’ll try to reunite him with his family.”

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