Pee Wee

Pee Wee

There are lots of Fox pups in need this year! One in particular is Pee Wee,  a male fox pup that  at 8 weeks of age only weighs 1.5 lbs and is developing very slowly.   He is very tiny and in need of constant care. Pee Wee  came in  quite malnourished and the beginnings of metabolic bone disease.  It is a challenge keeping him alive and well.  Donations toward Pee Wee’s care a greatly appreciated! Donations can be made online via PayPal

Itty Bitty Pups in 2008

Fox pups

Foxes are having trouble this year!  I am getting calls from all over the country regarding fox pups in trouble.  I am not sure if it is because of the visibility of my website , but people seem to more in tune with wildlife and know if they are in real trouble or not.  Thank goodness for technology and the age of digital cameras!  I call it “e-habbing” and I am not sure if I am the first person to coin the term “e-habbing” or not, but digital photos can be a real asset to determining the urgency of a situation.  I am very impressed with the quality of the photos of foxes I get. All the way from mothers and pups to body parts and dead animals. See the photo of the little head injured pup I have. He is very sweet and will not be releasable but hopefully will be able to live a high quality life at the Maine Wildlife Park

Blind Fox Pup Needs Sponsors!


Sponsors are needed for our new fox pups this spring. So far, all of the pups are special needs pups.  One female pup, whose finders called her “Foxy” is blind.  The animal eye specialist that we took her to says that she doesn’t even have pupils. You would never know that she is blind by the way she navigates around the pen with ease- jumping on logs, pouncing on insects and trying to coax the other pups to play with her.  She is truly an amazing little girl. Sponsors are needed for her as she will need continuing medical care as well as a new home built for her – she will be staying at Fox Wood permanently.  If you would like to sponsor this little fox, donations can be sent via paypal to we will promptly e-mail you a photo of her and you will be added to our newsletter list.

In Memory of Lucy

LucyIn fond memory of “Lucy” our ancient Silver fox that was humanely euthanized November 14th 2007. She was never ill a day in her life and never missed a meal until her last day. I estimated her age to be at least 17 years.  Lucy was a very valuable asset to Fox Wood because through the years she was a surrogate mother to hundreds of orphaned fox pups. She was  kind and gentle to the babies and would feed them before she would feed herself. Our fox pups grew up very wild because of Lucy. They never knew that food came from human hands.

Trapper Sets traps in a field and then stops checking them

Foot in trapA woman walking her dogs noticed a beautiful Red fox in a field seemingly held to the ground, unable to escape.  When she observed him, he was frantic and had worn a wide circle of blood in the snow and dirt below as he struggled for hours, unable  to free himself from the painful jaws that held his foot. This was a far cry from “sleeping peacefully” like the trappers tell us animals do when held in a trap. His mate had also worn a path in the snow as she paced nervously, wondering why her handsome mate couldn’t continue loping along with her, stopping occasionally to hunt for rodents.

Set like a mine field, the area behind the church is full of traps like this. The trapper set the traps there without permission, and when he had his fill of killing  and skinning his catches, he just abandoned the area- leaving his traps behind, still set.  The pile of skinned foxes and other dead wildlife in the corner of the field is proof of his selfishness and lack of compassion.  These are large traps, suited for catching coyotes.  A trap like this will destroy the foot of any animal that steps into it. Fortunately though, for every man lacking compassion for animals there are at least 10 people that do care and will try to undo the damage that this one person caused.

We worked quickly to arrive at the scene and secure the fox so that he couldn’t cause more damage to his foot by pulling and struggling.  Unable to free the foxes foot from the frozen, rusty metal, others ran to a hardware store for a heavy duty wire cutter to cut the chain to the stake.  Phone calls were made to the local SPCA Wildlife Center to prepare them and their wonderful vet for the patient soon to arrive.  By the time we arrived, they were ready for us.  Tools had to be located to open the device on the foxes foot. Everyone recoiled at the sight of the trap and the damage it had done to this beautiful fox.  At last the foot was free but irreparably damaged.  There was a lot of dirt and debris in the wound and infection was a risk.  The veterinarian, assisted by many caring individuals,  got right to work cleaning  the foot, shaving it and preparing the fox for surgical amputation of three of his toes.   It was wonderful to assist and watch this skillful and compassionate team help an animal that had been hurt so badly by one selfish trapper.  Many folks that were watching this event commented “I thought those things were outlawed- they still use things like this?” Meaning of course, that they were surprised that the practice of trapping still existed.  Yes, unfortunately it does.   No one makes much money on it, so one must wonder why so many animals have to suffer and die in vain?  Surely we don’t need to wear fur still?  It is vanity that makes some wear it.  Most of the furs go to Russia and China. How can people kill our wildlife for a few bucks- beer, gas  and cigarette money is all it amounts to.  Isn’t our wildlife worth more than that?  It is our wildlife too, and we don’t want it trapped and killed like this for fur.  Don’t believe the lousy excuses the trappers make for their cruel hobby- they aren’t controlling animal populations for us! They are creating imbalances.  They don’t control wildlife diseases either – they are catching the healthy animals, not the sick ones.  Coyote numbers rebound ten fold when members of a local population are killed by trapping and shooting.  This creates larger numbers than ever.    Don’t be fooled by the trapper cliche’s .  There is no use for it and it only creates suffering, death and destruction for our wildlife. Be sure to check out the photo page of the fox and the injuries to his foot.  The column on the left lists the different photo albums, click on the one that says “A Trap Injures a Red Fox” to see more photos. We will keep adding photos until the fox is released safely back into the wild to be with his mate. Clicking on the photos will enlarge them.

Fox in trap

A Fox Mystery

ScarletI received a year old female Red fox this summer that had been hit by a car.  While looking her over for the first time, there were some things about her that were confusing.  I noticed that she was very small – the size of a pup, yet when I looked at her teeth, they indicated a fox one year old.  “Why is she so small?” I wondered.  How did such a small inferior animal survive all of the coyotes in that area?

The pads of this fox were bleeding and oozing, as though she had never been on rough ground before.

Next, I noticed that she acted as though she could not see me, yet there was no apparent head or eye injury.  Hmmm….  weird.  Is this fox blind too?  Her eyes did not look perfect, but I couldn’t explain exactly what was different.

There was a lump in her back , and her rescuer explained that she was lying in the road.  Hit by a car of course.  But, she was able to sit up and move her back legs, a good sign.

So, in to the vet for examination and x-rays we went.

X-Rays revealed a broken back, but since she was not paralyzed, we decided to give her a chance.  Normally victims with broken backs are euthanized.  But, I would be able to keep her very quiet and give the back a chance to heal.

Examining her sight, or lack of, we determined that she might be able to see a little, but we weren’t sure.  I suspected that poor nutrition may be the cause of her blindness.

She only weighed 6 pounds – nearly half the weight that she should be, yet she wasn’t overly thin.

The bleeding raw pads  were not a symptom of disease here, but rather being on turf that they had never felt before. Rough ground.

I have pieced together her story after much thought and investigation.  The previous year a woman in that area had been turned in to the Conservation department for having a young wild Red fox pup.  She of course lied when the officers asked her about it.  She kept the fox hidden (no sunlight) and fed it all the wrong diet.  Improper diet  will definitely cause blindness, as well as inferior size, growth and development.  By the next spring, this fox had become a nuisance rather than the novelty it once was and the woman decided to release it back into the wild.

Never been outdoors, her poor feet were cut up by the ground that was relatively rough compared to soft floors or carpeting.  Blind or nearly so, she was unable to navigate oncoming vehicles.  How did  she avoid coyotes?  I can only speculate that she avoided coyotes because she stayed close to houses, traveling mostly roads.

Why must people kidnap wildlife?????  Every year I get countless calls about wildlife people “rescued”, yet only decided to find appropriate help for them when the animal was either dying or they found it suddenly inconvenient.  Every year I get calls for fox pups, coyote pups, baby raccoons, fawns,  baby skunks… all that people kidnapped from their mothers.  Wildlife Rehabilitators  can read through the lines pretty well and know when people are not telling us the whole story, or the truth.  We can also compare the age of the babies with the story that is being told to us and make a fairly accurate assessment of whether the truth is being told or not.  Fawns are a good one… I once had a father and son coaxed into  turning in a fawn the boy had supposedly rescued from its dead mother as a newborn.  He said he had it 2 days and had brought it home from the boy scout camp.  If he had pulled the afterbirth off of it like he said, then why was the fawn clearly two WEEKS old?

What had happened was he concocted the story , remembering a popular video shown on animal shows of “freeway” a fawn that was delivered on the side of the road.  He used this story to create his own fantastic story of heroics.  What really happened was that he stumbled on the fawn in the woods, doing what it was supposed to be doing – lying very still where its’  mother had hidden it.  Many adult have kidnapped fawns like this.  A very selfish act.  The bring them home, let their kids play with them , let their dogs sleep with them, and then when the fawn is dying – they decide to make some phone calls to get help.

Oh well… enough of that for a while.

About the Red fox  female, we will call her Scarlet  – guess what???? Her back has healed AND good and proper nutrition here at fox Wood has restored her vision!  She is gaining size and weight and shares a pen with Roamy, a young fox I will write about at a later time.  We will evaluate Scarlet in the Spring and see if she is fit for release at that time.

Congenital Hydrocephalus in Red and Grey Fox Pups

FoxCongenital Hydrocephalus Hydrocephalus is an accumulation of Cerebrospinal Fluid (CSF) within the cavities (ventricles) of the brain. Hydrocephalus has been reported in most species of domestic animals and is one of the more common congenital malformations of the canine nervous system. In a recent study, small toy breeds with large skulls (i.e. Maltese, Pomeranian, Chihuahua, Toy poodle) and the brachiocephalic breeds (Boston terrier, Pekinese, English bulldog) were identified as being at high risk. The smaller the adult dog (whether dwarf or miniature in size) the higher the risk of hydrocephalus.

Viral transmission in utero is suspected to be a potential cause in the red fox. Diagnosis of hydrocephalus is based on clinical signs and is confirmed by radiographic demonstration of enlarged lateral ventricles by ventriculography. Plain radiography will often reveal a ground glass appearance throughout the cranial vault. Unfortunately, anesthesia is contraindicated in animals with suspected hydrocephalus. Cranial sutures and/or open fontanels may be evident after normal age for closure and skull ossification. Prognosis is poor. Treatment of animals with congenital hydrocephalus is futile because of the large amount of tissue destruction and atrophy. Shunting is risky and cost-prohibitive. Dexamethasone (0.25mg/kg PO q12h) may be used to temporarily relieve symptoms (not as a treatment. This is thought to primarily affect brain bulk and CSF production, not CSF absorption. USE FLUID THERAPY WITH CAUTION- DO NOT OVERHYDRATE A HYDROCEPHALIC PUP.

Common Intake Scenario: Pup found in an open area with no others around Often in the morning, sometimes after a rain- presumably because momma didn’t want to be trailed? Pup appears to have been left behind Often not near any roads it could have been hit on- though it can be mistaken as hit by car if found by the road. No visible injuries or illness, though they sometimes have Sarcoptic mange Fox pup acts very friendly and either very docile or very excitable May have even run up to people “out of the blue”

Two Age Groups and Scenarios:

Fox pupAge Group 1:  3-5 weeks old “fat and fuzzy stage” All the hydrocephalic pups this age that I have gotten in had the very obvious dome shaped skull The base of the skull was very large and wide. They eyes protrude and appear to have bags under them. Visual impairments including blindness, non-reactive pupils. The eyes may remain a bluish color Often the pup can not seem to lift its head and acts as though it has a severe headache. Inappropriate vocalizations (sick puppy cry or cerebral cry) Behavior and condition may come and go. One moment the pup seems down and out, and a half-hour later it is up and around and acting normal, barking for its mother. Be careful not to set a pup that appears immobile on a counter top or in a cardboard box that is not tightly closed – they can suddenly come around and end up taking a dangerous fall The symptoms may be temporarily relieved with a dose of Dexamethosone. Careful examination by a veterinarian may reveal that the fontanels are soft. Soft spots remain at skull sutures or junctions. The swelling in the brain prevents the fontanels from coming together. Hydrocephalus is extremely painful for the animal. The animal is suffering, will continue to suffer and should be euthanized as soon as possible, preferably by injection by a veterinarian.

Fox pupAge Group 2: 6-16 weeks old These animals are often mistaken for being tame. Often they have been in captivity for a few weeks before being turned over to a rehabilitator. The people may say that they found the pup in their front yard or that it ran up to them. In the past I have considered that inadequate diet may be causing the odd symptoms, but after careful observation and the time to correct the diet have found this not to be the case. Pups that are older like this are generally showing more of the behavioral than the physical symptoms. The symptoms will come and go. The dome-shaped skull may not be obvious or even present. The pup may have a completely normal skull with no obvious doming.

Behavioral symptoms may include: Difficulty with sense coordination i.e. can smell the food but can’t seem to find it even when it is right under their nose. It will hear a noise, but not be able to determine from which direction it is coming from Hyperactivity Eyes may appear to have bags under them Excessive panting or respiration rate Unusually intense vocalization “banshee scream” Unusually deep sleeps – you could partially pick up the animal before it wakes. Sounds that would cause a normal fox to wake and lift its head from sleep will not awaken a hydrocephalic pup. This condition comes and goes. The fox runs in circles instead of straight lines. The circling is often in just one direction. Hyperextension of one or both forelegs when moving. This is often noticed during circling. The leg may actually reach as high as to scrape the ear. Unusual intensity of tail wagging and vocalization when excited. Self-mutilation, biting of the tail Inability to see Weakness, easily fatigued Respiratory distress Frequent pacing, circling, gait abnormalities Hind leg paralysis Hypersensitivity to loud sudden noises Sitting with head tilted down as though with a severe headache Seizures after a meal.

Please note that unless you are observing the animal 24 hours a day it may be having seizures without your knowledge. Often a seizure is followed by death. A visit to the vet for a sonogram or radiography and or careful observation over the course of a few days, or even longer may be needed to diagnose hydrocephalus. The condition comes and goes and the symptoms change. This makes euthanasia a very difficult decision to make. Especially when you are observing an animal that may appear cosmetically perfect with no broken limbs, obvious defects. Pressure on the brain is a very painful condition and an animal that is hydrocephalic is suffering. It can not be cured. I have tried holistic methods as well as steroid therapy, also time to try to allow growth. None of these treatments work. If you are a wildlife rehabilitator and you have a fox pup that you need help with, please contact me.

Fox pup

Are You Seeing Foxes Suddenly? This is Fox Pup Season

The phone calls and e-mails are rolling in- it is fox pup time and a lot of people are seeing adult foxes near their homes and becoming alarmed. What they don’t realize is that foxes are coming in close to people to raise their families because coyotes are in the further out areas.  If a coyote finds a fox den, it may dig up the den and kill all the young.  Foxes know this so they choose what they believe to be the lesser of two evils and come in closer to humans and away from the coyotes to have their litters. Please be kind and “rent” out your space to momma fox.  You will be glad you did.

People tell me “My gardens were never better!”

And “Thank you for talking to me about the fox family.  We watched them instead of TV. They were so wonderful!”

And “We hope they come back next year!”

Foxes may have a den under your shed, porch, barn or in the back yard in a hill.   The family will likely be moved in a few weeks to a new place.   When the pups are older (July, August) they will start to be seen less and less.  By September, the fox family will be gone and everything will be back to normal.  Red foxes will not live in a den year round.  They only den to raise their families.  Out of a litter of 6, it is likely that only two or three foxes will live to see September.

People are often alarmed, thinking their family pets and children are being stalked.  Stalked by a 10 pound fox? I don’t think so.  In fact, foxes do not want to kill or eat your child, cat or dog, no matter how small .  They eat primarily mice, rats, rabbits and woodchucks.  They may certainly watch your pets with concern, bark at them and may even chase your cat back into your yard if it goes near the den- Of course good cat owners realize that they shouldn’t let their cats roam free.  Your 16 pound kitty will be able to hold his ow her own against the fox.  Remember, it is the outdoors and the fox belongs there.

Please allow the mother fox to raise her pups in peace. Do not hire someone to “relocate the family” this will not work!  The most that will happen is that one or two pups will be caught (and surely killed by the hired person) and the mother will get scared and move her family.   Most states have laws that state captured wildlife must be killed.  Be patient, enjoy the fox family.  it is a lot of fun to watch the pups scampering and tumbling with each other.  In fact, it is a lot better entertainment than most TV shows on these days.  Enjoy the breath of fresh air and the beauty in your back yard- it may be a once in a life time event for you.

Many people are afraid they can’t let their animals out to go potty now.  keep in mind that before you realize the family was there, you let your pets out and everything was OK.

Inform your neighbors not to shoot the foxes they see crossing the yards during the day .  Red foxes are Not nocturnal! Momma works very hard to feed her family.  She will work all day and night catching rodents, snatching roadkill and bringing it back to her growing babies.  Foxes also eat a great deal of grasses and insects too.  They are omnivores.

If you really can’t have a fox family in your yard, you may place an object such as a chair or a bucket near the den, but not too close as to scare momma away from grabbing her pups and moving them away from the scary object.  About 10 feet from the den should be enough to concern her.  Think about this though, momma felt safe enough in your yard to have her pups there.  Where else will she be able to move those pups where they will be safe?

Please, appreciate this gift of nature.

Nursing fox

A Sad Start to the Spring Baby Season

I am saddened to write that the first two young fox pups that were brought to Fox Wood this spring had to be euthanized.  Their Momma and a dead litter mate were found in a den by a concerned farmer.  The two hungry  pups, along with the deceased mom and pup were brought to us Sunday night April 9th.  Monday morning I submitted the deceased adult and pup to the County Health department for rabies testing. The adult came back positive.  Because of the fact that momma probably licked and cared for her pups before she died, the chances that they would also come down with rabies is very good.  Wednesday evening the remaining two pups were humanely put down by a local vet.  They will also be submitted for rabies testing.  Rabies in Western New York Red foxes is not nearly as common as it is in Raccoons.  Some folks will be needing their rabies post exposure shots for sure.  Rabies is a horrible disease and not worth taking chances with.  I will keep  posting when results for these two come back.

Of Pheasant Farmers and Our New York State Wildlife

A woman called me about a neighbor that raises pheasants.  He gets them through a pheasant raise and release program. He likes to raise and release ASIAN (that is the key word here…) Ring neck pheasants, a non-native species that USED to inhabit and breed in New York State fields back in the early to mid 1900’s.  Asian Ring neck pheasants are considered a game bird and are a favorite of the hunters. Back in the 1900’s there were large tracts of open land, largely unmolested by chemical fertilizers, pesticides, roads that cut through them, new houses and sub-divisions, hay and corn and other grain plantings. Because of the large tracts of open land, the released birds were able to breed and populate these areas.  However, things changed – they changed a lot since then and most of these fields are now used by man for farming, housing, driving on, etc…  So basically, the habitat that this Asian bird needed to survive and reproduce is gone.  Yet, every year in New York people raise thousands of these birds and release them, hoping that THIS time they will take hold and re-populate the area.

I see pheasants now and then.  Despite the fact that much of my free time is spent walking the outdoors, the only pheasants that I  ever see are pecking gravel along side of the roads.  One can pull over and catch them sometimes.  Why is this?  Because they have no survival instinct left in them – they know nothing about predators from any direction – hawks from overhead, raccoons and foxes (and of course, coyotes) from the ground.  I see pheasants squashed on the road too, so avoiding cars are not in their arsenal either.  Why do people still raise and release these birds in the hopes of there suddenly being a large natural population that they can once again hunt and come home with a bag full?

So what is my point and what is the coyote connection here?

My point is this: The fore-mentioned lady called me because she is upset that her neighbor protects his pheasants with a full array of traps set around the pens and property and that he also places a deer carcass on the property so that he can lure coyotes and foxes to the carcass and then shoot them- year round.  That is of course, if they make it through the maze of traps. Every year I hear about another pheasant “raiser” who **protects** his pheasants with tall posts with “foot-hold traps on them so that  owls and hawks that fly over and perch on the post are caught by the traps, condemning them to a slow hideous death.  Owls and Hawks are  federally protected birds and if the person gets caught, they are in big trouble.  However the guy with the indiscriminant ground foot-hold traps and the deer carcass for his hunting pleasure year round is perfectly within his legal rights.  I see a big problem with folks luring our New York State wildlife in to kill them-any time of the year, and in the name of pheasant re-introduction.  The way the law reads,  even though there is a coyote hunting season and a trapping season, if you feel that you or your property are threatened in any way,by any animal, you can take that animal in any manner, at any time. ANY manner. ANY time. That door is wide open. Scary, HUH?

What cost to our wildlife are these pheasant breeders and raisers?  How many mammals and protected birds are killed every year by folks in “Pheasant Denial”.  Attempting to raise and release pheasants is akin to raising and releasing domestic chickens and hoping that somehow a wild chicken population will take hold and we can “harvest” them and their eggs joyfully. Pheasants have little sense of survival, as do chickens,  and their release will only feed domestic dogs and wild predators a nice plump, slow and easy to catch meal.

Pheasants need large unmolested tracts of field land to nest- if they survive all of the odds and nest, they are doomed as well.  Unfortunately, most of the large tracts of fields are cut for hay. The hay cutting season just happens to coincide with the nesting season of the pheasants.  The effects of tractors and hay cutting machines on a nest of eggs is catastrophic.

So, it is great that there are still things for kids and people to do that are good, safe, healthy, wholesome and keep kids off the streets and close to the outdoors- No doubt I am all for that, why must it include the killing of wildlife attracted by the sights and smells of this (and other)  fowl that have no chance of survival upon release anyway?  Safer enclosures for the pheasants while they are in captivity is simple.  Educating the children (and adults) of the many risks involved in raising and releasing a non-native fowl with a very slim chance of survival is necessary.  Predation of a basically defenseless bird is a simple, undeniable fact.  To purposely kill predators  that are preying on such a defenseless  bird is senseless.