(Posted Nov. 1, 2017)
By Christine Bryant, Staff Writer
A sick fox is getting a second chance at life, thanks to local wildlife experts.
This summer, a visitor at Battelle Darby Creek Metro Park near West Jefferson alerted a ranger that there was a sick-looking fox attempting to beg for food in the Little Darby picnic area off Gardner Road.
Ranger staff responded with capture tools and found a juvenile with hairless patches on its body, which park officials suspected as mange.
“The first several attempts to lure the fox into the carrier with a piece of hot dog worked, but the fox was quicker to get out before we could close the door,” said Stephanie Shaffer, assistant manager at the park.
Rangers returned with a Hav-a-hart trap that included a trip plate, and rangers were able to capture the fox within 15 minutes once the trap was set, she said.
Shaffer delivered the fox to the Ohio Wildlife Center, which partners with Columbus and Franklin County Metro Parks. Staff admitted the red fox to the free community donation-based emergency wildlife hospital.
“They only requested whether we could approve for it to be released if cured or fully rehabilitated back to the park,” Shaffer said.
Mange can be deadly in foxes, since a fox’s immune system may become compromised by the infection, according to the Ohio Wildlife Center. Internal parasites often absorb the nutrients the fox needs to survive.
For the next few months, the fox received treatments for mange and parasite removal, as well as supplemental care and rehabilitation time, said Stormy Gibson, director of wildlife education at the Ohio Wildlife Center and SCRAM! Wildlife Control.
Though named “Foxy,” the fox’s sex is unknown–something that’s common in rehabilitation care, Gibson said.
“Wildlife rehabbers want as little hands-on contact with our patients as possible, so oftentimes, sexing a patient is not as important as weighing and medicating,” she said.
The Ohio Wildlife Center operates the state’s largest, free native wildlife animal hospital. In 2016, it assessed and treated more than 4,500 wildlife patients from 54 Ohio counties.
Wildlife rehabilitation and veterinary staff evaluated Foxy and determined the fox could be released back into the park.
A little more than two months after park staff captured the fox, Foxy headed back to its home, ready for a new beginning.
Arrangements were made for Oct. 4 to release the fox at Battelle Darby Creek, near the original trapped site, but roughly half a mile north so that it could be away from the suspected den, Shaffer said.
“The rest is history,” she said.