Sneaky, suffering fox escapes capture throughout Ashland | Local
The scruffy animal emerged from behind a house on Third Street near Ellis Avenue, trotting then stopping to look behind, then walking away.
Behind him came a man who tried to gather him to a corner where he couldn’t escape, but the animal had nothing to do with it. As soon as the man approached, he set off again at a trot, not casually, but obviously not in panic either. The game of cat and mouse lasted for several blocks until the animal disappeared.
This was just the last effort to catch what is clearly a very ill red fox that has escaped capture in Ashland for the past few weeks. The fox has lost much of its fur, its face and head covered with a thick, unpleasant-looking yellowish crust.
The fox, which also limps on one leg, probably suffers from mange, a sometimes fatal skin infestation of parasitic mites that penetrate the skin of the animal, causing intense itching, hair loss, scabs and lesions. .
His suffering has led residents across town to claim to have seen him, publicizing his plight on social media – and some have tried to capture him to help him.
But it turns out that catching a reluctant fox is neither easy nor always legal. And not just anyone can help.
Susan Peterson first saw the fox a few weeks ago and her condition shocked her.
“He was extremely skinny, he had scabies and he would be limping in his left leg,” she said.
After learning that police and animal control officers weren’t allowed to deal with wildlife, she contacted Department of Natural Resources conservation officer Rich Maki, who told her she basically had two choices.
“He said I could let nature take its course or have a landowner trap it,” Peterson said.
Under state law, anyone who traps a live animal must have a trapper’s license, but landowners can trap an animal on their property if they find it harmful.
If the fox were trapped, it could be transferred to a licensed rehabilitation center, Peterson said.
“It’s a tall order,” she said. “You have to find a property where the fox is going, and you have to get the landowner’s agreement.”
Peterson was up to the task. Now she has a landowner willing to cooperate and a large living trap that will hold the fox back
“It’s all finally falling into place,” she said.
Now she just needs the crafty guy to cooperate.
In the meantime, Maki works with a licensed trapper to set up live traps on public property where the fox has been seen.
“He has a few live traps and I hope we can figure out how he moves to and from the lake,” he said.
But setting a trap doesn’t guarantee the elusive fox will be caught. Another Ashland resident, Maggie Gilbert, managed to get the fox stuck in a culvert with a friend, blocking one end and covering the other with a blanket.
The slippery fox also escaped this trap.
“We almost got him, but he managed to get away from us,” Gilbert said.
Maki said the fox’s ability to escape capture so far suggests it might not be as bad as it looks.
“The problem with scabies is that sometimes it will get better on its own,” he said.
Still, the fox would undoubtedly benefit from the care of a veterinarian.
“It’s a very quick and effective treatment,” Maki said.
This is exactly what Gilbert and Peterson have in mind, if they can be successful in their efforts to catch the fox, either with the MNR sponsored traps or through the cooperation of landowners using borrowed traps.
“If we can catch it, we’ll probably take it to Rhinelander and have it seen by Wild Instincts,” said Gilbert, referring to a certified wildlife rehabilitation organization operated by Mark Naniot and Sharon Larson, who worked with of the wounded and the sick. wild for almost 40 years.
Naniot said animals with mange are not uncommon at Wild Instincts.
“Every two years we’ll have a pretty good crop of mange where a lot of animals get it; this year we’ve had quite a few, ”he said.
Naniot said that if left untreated scabies can be fatal, but sometimes it resolves on its own.
“It depends a lot on the time of year. At this time of year, it’s not that bad, as most of the time they end up shedding most of their coat, and in the summer it’s not as dangerous. In winter, this is where we see the problems. We have a few nights under 20 and they don’t have the fur to warm up and they die from exposure, ”he said.
Another problem is that of nursing mothers who pass the infection on to their young.
Once an animal with mange is introduced, treatment is fairly straightforward.
“We give them an injection of a chemical called Ivermectin, which kills adult mites,” Naniot said. A complete treatment consists of three or four injections to kill any mites that hatch after the initial treatment.
Once the animal is treated, its fur will grow back quickly.
“We’ve seen this a few times, when they come in they only have a little tuft of fur on their tail, but by the time they’re released they’ll have a great, beautiful coat again,” Naniot said.
This is how Peterson hopes the story ends, but she is concerned that the fox will be targeted before then because of its appearance.
“I hope we can take it to the rehabilitator soon,” she said. “It’s the sweetest thing. He looks at you with the most innocent gaze.