Jan 12, 2024

Helping Red Foxes with Itchy Situation

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Two red fox siblings were among 26 foxes admitted to DCHS's Wildlife Center in 2023, which took our team a lot of time and work. Read their story to learn how they were unique to our program.

Two young red foxes, #23-1232 and 1273, were brought to DCHS’s Wildlife Center by a property owner who had been observing the family in their backyard. The entire fox family had mange, and the fox mother had disappeared. We advised them to live-trap the young and bring them in for treatment. The first of two juveniles, (both male and presumed siblings) was caught and brought in late July; the other was caught in early August. They were housed separately indoors at first to more easily care for them, but after responding well to treatment they were reunited outside in the same enclosure. They were released together at the end of September.

Sarcoptic mange is caused by a mite which burrows into the skin causing intense itching. The fox then scratches causing crusting, fur loss, broken skin, and secondary infections. Sarcoptic mange is curable if the animal is treated before these complications become too severe. Left untreated, these conditions can be fatal.

It is important, however, not to attempt to medicate mange in the wild. Other animals can eat the medications and possibly overdose on them, and the related health complications of mange such as wounds, infections, starvation, hair loss, and hypothermia, cannot be appropriately treated unless they are captured. Animals with mange need to be in rehabilitation for these secondary complications otherwise their condition could worsen.

With red foxes living in closer quarters in urban areas, mange is unfortunately a common issue. Keep in mind that, although you may want to help these animals they may become defensive when approached. Capture of wildlife should only be attempted with direction from licensed wildlife rehabilitators, for the safety of all involved—human and animal alike.

Sarah Karls is a Senior Licensed Wildlife Rehabilitator at DCHS's Wildlife Center.

Top photo: Red fox siblings #23-1232 and 1273 enjoy the space in an outdoor enclosure at night.

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