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Dec 29, 2023

Unique Fox Species Admitted to DCHS's Wildlife Center

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A unique animal was admitted to DCHS's Wildlife Center in October – a juvenile Gray Fox showing neurologic symptoms. Rehabilitators were cautiously optimistic, hoping it wasn't distemper.

In October, Dane County Humane Society's (DCHS's) Wildlife Center admitted a very special and unique animal, a juvenile male Gray Fox. These foxes are rare to admit to our Wildlife Center, much less rehabilitate and release—they often will come in with symptoms of severe distemper, a very deadly disease.

Gray Fox are a petite relative of the more common Red Fox. They have shorter legs, more rounded ears, and are more arboreal (tree climbing) than the Red Fox.

This Gray Fox was even more unique in that it was much younger than we would have expected! We estimated that this fox was about 4 to 5 months old, but typically by October young Gray Fox are about 7 months of age on average. This fox was born abnormally late in spring compared to most.

Having grown a little bigger and stronger, the Gray Fox was released following its successful rehabilitation.

At first, we were concerned that this fox had distemper and would not survive. He was depressed and showing neurologic symptoms such as persistent circling. We were cautiously optimistic when he made it through the first few days, and very happy when the distemper test came back negative! With distemper no longer part of the possible diagnosis, we were more certain that this juvenile had suffered some sort of physical trauma. Time would tell if the neurologic issues he had would be permanent or resolve.

By the end of his first week in care, he was brighter and circling less. We kept him indoors for a couple more weeks to allow his thin condition and dehydration to improve, then we could move him outside. It was still clear when we moved him to an outdoor enclosure that he was not yet normal; he was showing less fear of human presence than we would expect, but he was still making encouraging progress.

About a month after he was brought in, he was finally acting like a normal Gray Fox. He was hiding when people came into his enclosure for care, and our trail camera footage showed him climbing and running around at night without any signs of neurologic issues. He was fully recovered and ready for a life in the wild. We connected with a DNR Warden at a State Wildlife Area a few miles from where he was found to coordinate release in the best habitat for him.

DCHS's Wildlife Center is 100% supported by the generosity of our community. If you would like to support all the work we do for wild animals in need, please donate here.

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

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