Staff at wildlife centre dress up as a mother fox to save abandoned cub

A staff member from Richmond Wildlife Centre in the US dresses up as a fox to feed a fox cub.
A staff member from Richmond Wildlife Centre in the US dresses up as a fox to feed a fox cub. Copyright Richmond Wildlife Center
By Euronews Green with APTN
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No you're not watching some drug-induced hallucination, but a love for wildlife in action.

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Employees of the Richmond Wildlife Center in Virginia are doing their best to act like mother foxes as they feed and care for an orphaned kit that found her way into their care.

In a bid to make this as natural as possible, they had to get a little bit creative.

Executive director Melissa Stanley took the unorthodox step of donning a hyper realistic fox mask while feeding the tiny kit from a syringe.

The kit sits on top of a large stuffed animal fox that is supposed to look like her mother, Stanley said.

How can abandoned animals be returned to the wild?

This helps to minimise human sounds and creates visual barriers, the centre explained in a Facebook post. “It’s important to make sure that the orphans that are raised in captivity do not become imprinted upon or habituated to humans,” the post said.

All those measures make it more likely the kit could be reintroduced into the wild someday.

Stanley said in an interview on Tuesday that the kit was admitted to the centre on 29 February after a man walking his dog found her in an alley in Richmond in Virginia, US. Thinking she was a kitten, he turned her over to the Richmond Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. She was less than 24 hours old and her umbilical stump was still attached.

Wildlife centre staff initially tried to locate the kit's mother and her den site so they could reunite them. They found the den site, but were told by the grounds superintendent that the foxes had been trapped and removed. Stanley said she suspects the fox kit either fell out of a trap or off the back of the trapper's truck.

Wildlife centre staff have been on round the clock care

Staff at the wildlife centre have been taking turns feeding the kit every two to four hours, all while wearing the fox mask. In addition to the large stuffed animal meant to mimic the kit's mother, staff also put a smaller stuffed red fox in her enclosure.

“The goal is to release animals back into the wild, not only to give them a greater chance of survival, but to recognise their own species and to reproduce to carry on their wildlife population,” Stanley says.

To that end, the centre immediately began looking for other red fox kits of the same age and weight within the rehabilitation community.

Staff located three other kits in a rehabilitation setting in northern Virginia. The fox kit will be transferred to the Animal Education and Rescue Organisation, which plans to eventually release the kits back into the wild together.

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