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  • Writer's pictureRae Gellel

I've seen a limping fox - so why won't a wildlife rescue organisation attend?

Updated: Dec 6, 2023

Sometimes, members of the public become frustrated with wildlife rescue organisations when they report a limping fox, and the organisation doesn't instantly dispatch a rescuer to come out and catch the fox. However, there are some very good reasons for this.

1) Firstly, there is almost no point dispatching a volunteer to any fox that is still fully mobile.

Unless there are other underlying issues or the injury is particularly severe, a fox limping on one leg is still far quicker and more agile than your average human. They are able to climb fences and walls with relative ease and know every escape route, back alley and bolt-hole within their territory. Catching such a fox on foot, with a net, is near impossible; the fox will simply vanish when approached - it may even leave long before a volunteer arrives. The only way to achieve capture would be a with a baited cage trap. However - 2) It isn't always possible to locate the fox in a public place.

Unless the fox is well known to you - such as a regular visitor to your garden - finding the fox again is like finding a needle in a haystack for a volunteer. We often receive reports of a fully mobile and active limping fox, seen in a public place such as the street, just once, as the person was passing. Sometimes the reports are hours old. Foxes can travel up to 12 miles in a night and their territory may be as large as 0.2 square kilometers in the city. Searching every inch of an area, usually in the dark, including thick foliage and underground earths, is just impossible. hat's ifT the fox was catch-able on foot in the first place! Trapping in public areas rather than private gardens, is also tricky in general as traps are vulnerable to damage and theft. A volunteer has to monitor the trap at all times, and is liable to catch every other fox - and cat - in the area, rather than the intended target. 3) Most importantly of all, the injury often just isn't severe enough to justify the extreme stress of being captured. Being trapped and taken to a rescue centre is a terrifying and stressful experience for a fox. This level of stress can be detrimental to their health, both mentally and physically, and they may injure themselves further whilst desperately trying to escape a cage or carrier. An injury therefore has to be fairly severe to justify causing such suffering, and most limps simply aren't. They're mild injuries that will resolve by themselves over time, and if the fox is otherwise fully mobile, they are able to cope just fine during this healing period. So it's often simply not worth putting the fox through the ordeal of capture and treatment - the cure is worse than the injury. Any reputable wildlife rescue organisation will operate on the ethos that wild animals are best left in the wild, and that human intervention is always a last resort - only to be undertaken when it is necessary to prevent extreme suffering or save a life. This is also important because the resources of rescue orgs - such as volunteers and funds - are very limited. If your volunteers spend all their time chasing foxes with mild injuries that will eventually resolve themselves, there will be far less volunteer time, energy and funds available for the foxes that are critically ill, who will die without treatment. So it's also a matter of managing time and resources, and balancing this against what's best for the animal. There are, of course, exceptions, and you should always seek help if a fox is emaciated, has mange or other injuries in addition to a limp, if the fox does not run away or react when approached, if the fox or the injured limb is attracting flies, if bone is exposed, or if the limb is being dragged on the floor. And if you're in any doubt about the severity of an injury, then get a video of the fox and send it to the GWN or another reputable organisation so we can make an assessment.

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