OWATONNA -- When an abandoned red fox kit was found April 10 in the garage of her boyfriend’s home, Estefania Parra went to Facebook for help.
That’s when Dave Sauter of Owatonna stepped in and offered to take the kit off Parra’s hands and find a place for the young fox. Sauter drove to Red Wing and brought the fox home to give it a chance to live.
“This is their planet,” Sauter said. “They were here before us, and they have every right to be OK and live in harmony and in the wild. This one got stuck in town and needed to be rescued, so I had no problem going.”
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The kit stayed with Sauter for one night as he tried to find a suitable place to take it. Some people told Sauter to keep the kit as a pet, which is illegal, and others said to release it back into the wild. With the kit being about 4 weeks old, Sauter believed the fox wouldn’t have been able to survive on its own.
The kit looked to be in “absolute perfect health” and its wild instincts showed with its aggressive bolting for food.
After making several calls the following day, Sauter took his fluffy house guest to the Wildlife Rehabilitation Center in Roseville, Minn., where it will be taken care of and eventually be returned to the wild.
“It was an absolute amazing experience being able to hold a baby fox,” Sauter said. But turning it over to the rehab center "was best for the fox."
Tami Vogel of the Wildlife Rehabilitation Center of Minnesota detailed the steps people should take when rescuing wildlife such as foxes.
1. The initial approach
If you see a baby animal such as a fox or coyote alone, leave the animal be for at least 24 hours to see if the parents return.
“Mom and dad are out getting prey for them, so they're not with the kids all the time,” Vogel said. Never assume that a young animal left alone is orphaned. "We don't want people to assume that. We want them to leave the kit alone.”
If the animal remains in the same location 24 hours later, call the Wildlife Rehabilitation Center, Vogel said.
2. The fox’s body language
How the animal is acting while it’s alone is key to knowing if it needs to be rescued or not, Vogel said.
If a fox kit is curled up in a ball and has been in the same location for a day or more, Vogel recommends containing it safely and bringing it to the rehab center. Do not handle a fox kit with bare hands because it may have rabies.
However, if the fox kit is active and moving around, then the chances are it’s interacting with its parents without you noticing. Vogel suggested using a trail camera to see if the parent is nearby.
3. When the fox needs to be rescued
Vogel said a fox kit only needs to be rescued when it can not hunt for itself. A fox can usually hunt once it’s a few months old, she said.
If the kit's eyes are closed, it's a sign that the kit is too young to provide for itself. If the parents do not return, the fox will need to be rescued.
If the fox is injured in any way, Vogel recommends bringing it to the rehab center.
Other signs of wildlife needing rescued
Baby birds: If a bird such as a robin falls out of the nest, you could pick it up and place it back into the nest without it affecting the relationship with its mother. Vogel said to watch from a distance to make sure the parents are still coming back to feed it. If the bird is consistently out of the nest and doesn’t yet have feathers, Vogel said to bring it to the Wildlife Rehabilitation Center
Raccoons and squirrels: Vogel said these babies show similar signs to fox kits if they need to be rescued. If it’s eyes are closed, or it remains in the same location for 24 hours without a parent returning, then the animal has been abandoned and is incapable of providing for itself. Bring it to the rehab center.