On December 1, a family from Richmond brought in a juvenile Red Fox. They had spotted the fox on their property a month prior to admission, and said that he was in such rough shape that they "could hardly tell he was a fox ... we realized he needed help, and after speaking with Center staff, we bought a humane trap and set it up with sardines as bait. The fox seemed scared the first time he approached the trap, but we covered it with leaves on our second attempt and had immediate success." Once captured, the family quickly transported the fox to the Wildlife Center.
On admission, the veterinary team determined that the young fox had a severe case of sarcoptic mange. Not only had the fox lost roughly 60% of its fur, but he was also emaciated, dehydrated, and had several open wounds on his face and body. Most of the fox's skin was crusted and hardened as a result of a secondary bacterial infection.
Sarcoptic mange is a skin condition caused by the parasitic mite Sarcoptes scabiei. These contagious mites burrow underneath the skin of host animals and cause intense itching and inflammation. In many cases, the infestation will resolve without treatment if the animal has a healthy immune system, but if not, it can progress to the point of serious complications as it did for this fox. Affected animals will scratch themselves incessantly, creating wounds that become infected. Mange also leads to hair loss, which leaves animals vulnerable to the elements during cold winter months.
Veterinary staff are treating the fox with a combination of anti-parasitic, antibiotic, and anti-inflammatory medication. The prognosis for recovery was initially guarded due to the fox's poor condition. Thankfully, after three weeks in care, the fox has made significant improvement. Front desk staff at the Wildlife Center were thrilled to update the rescuers on the fox's progress, and were touched to learn that the fox has a large following in the community who are rooting for him to recover. "I shared this fox's story and received so many heartwarming responses ," the rescuer said. "I also learned that I'm not alone, others said they've seen foxes just like this one."
The fox is still missing fur, but his skin has significantly improved.
Sadly, this fox's story is not unusual. Each year, the Center receives a substantial number of reports of mange in Red Foxes. Habitat loss and the feeding of wildlife — whether purposeful or indirect — have likely contributed to the spread of mange in recent years. These human-related activities either force or encourage animals to occupy shared spaces where the highly contagious mites can more easily spread.
The Wildlife Center advises callers who see mangy foxes to take photos or videos. This can help staff determine whether the fox needs treatment. If a fox does need treatment, the best way to help it is to set out a humane trap; be sure to check the trap at least twice a day, and always release other animals that enter the trap. Once the fox has been contained, it should be transported to the nearest wildlife rehabilitator as soon as possible.