Thursday, August 26, 2010

The Fox and the Hedgehog

Okay, I fooled you, there are no hedgehogs in this post, but I’ve heard it’s a cute story. The real story starts with a phone call about a fox this morning and the picture that goes best with it is a rather unappealing one; you will see it below.
The caller lived in Southeastern Wisconsin, but had been at their lake home for the weekend. While there, they noticed a fox that appeared a bit rough and thin. Their neighbor remarked that it had been seen coming and going from the culvert under their driveway for a week or more.

The reality is that foxes have adapted well to urban life all across the country; whether it is City urban or Lake Home urban; and even in other countries. Since fall is inching its way closer the majority of fox kits have started out on their own and some of them struggle at first. What is also common in foxes in this area is mange.

According to the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, “mange is a skin disease of mammals caused by a tissue-burrowing arthropod.” They go on to describe Sarcoptic mange, which is the kind commonly seen in foxes in Wisconsin, as being “characterized by thinning and loss of hair, thickening and wrinkling of the skin, and scab and crust formation.” Patients we’ve admitted obviously have thinning hair, but they will also commonly have sores that are scabbed over and smell terrible over much of their body. Mange is treatable, and we do so with a dual treatment both internally and externally. The unfortunate part of the disease is that the animals eventually become weak from an inability to hunt from the distraction and fighting the ongoing infection from the wounds on their bodies. This is usually the time that they are finally contained and brought to us for care and treatment. [This is evident in the photo above. To read about the happy ending this pitiful creature saw you’ll have to watch for a future post]

But what about his children? Foxes, and most wild animals for that matter, don’t want to have anything to do with humans or our pets. Aside from playful fox kits, they usually don’t want to expend any more energy than is necessary to procure their next meal. Since they are omnivorous, this could range from some berries under a mulberry tree to a mouse or an occasional cottontail, but rarely anything larger. Unless we interfere with their natural behaviors by trying to habituate them the average person will never have a bad experience with an animal like this. It is our responsibility as adults to teach children about wildlife and the world that surrounds us. This means encouraging respect, not fear, of our wild neighbors. It also means understanding that if we show them the respect they deserve, they will do the same in exchange. With development drawing more wildlife into urban areas it will benefit all of us if we learn this lesson.

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