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July 20, 2010

Mr. Fantastic: A Fox Dad Accepts Orphans As Own

A family is born

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

  • Taking on the care of two orphaned kits came naturally to the adult male fox, right, making a new family unit. All photos by Heather Fone/The HSUS

  • One of the young fox taken in at the Wildlife Care Center.

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    The adult fox guarded the kits from the human "invaders."

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    Everything worked out well for this orphaned kit.

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    The two orphaned kits were transferred from another wildlife center to the Cape Wildlife Center.

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    When he came in, the adult fox was unable to see because his eyelids were so swollen.

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     The outdoor enclosure at the center was home to the foxes during their stay.

An adult fox and three young kits were successfully released into the wild in Swampscott, Mass., late last month—an irresistible trio that won the hearts of our expert staff at The Fund for Animals’ Cape Wildlife Center in Barnstable.

The selflessness of the male fox made a real impression: After recovering from a serious case of mange that threatened his eyesight because his eyelids were so severely swollen, he served as an enthusiastic parent to his own kit, as well as to two orphaned kits transported from New England Wildlife Center in Weymouth.

“After a few weeks of intensive treatment for mange and complete recovery, the ‘dad’ and his kit were introduced to the two orphaned kits,” said Dr. Roberto Aguilar, veterinarian at Cape Wildlife. “I was amazed he took to them like he did. He was an incredibly good parent and not only made sure they ate first, but also protected them from us human “intruders” by standing guard over them.

"We took a risk in trying to create a new group and it paid off with four animals that could be released in the best condition possible—that of a single family unit .”

Wildlife experts at the center always take care to make all interaction with humans unobtrusive to avoid imprinting on young wild animals. The fox dad quickly became very protective of all three kits and guarded them by sitting at the front of the enclosure. 

“At feeding time he would pick up food in his mouth and feed it to the hungry kits before eating himself!” Aguilar said. "The male fox never seemed to have a problem with having three young. Care and protection were given to all evenly."

The fox and three kits were released all together as a family by an animal control officer, who took them to the same area that they were originally found.

“We received a report back from the animal control officer that the release went well and the fox are now all running free,” Aguilar said.

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