Animal Anecdote 8.
Three High School boys came to my Clinic without an appointment but with a request for bartering. Each boy was dirty with good clean dirt and sweaty with good clean sweat. They had spent the past 3 hours digging out a fox den. Opening the corrugated box and there they were, 5 of them. In exchange for one of them would I give them advice? It had always been my policy to give the schools free advice and I gladly included these nursing red foxes. At the time I had an orphan beagle puppy in a homemade incubator in my house and this fox was the same age, about 10 days. They made a perfect pair snuggling together for a week. Of course my wife did most of the bottle feeding. This mutually compatible arrangement seemed to be an idyllic situation when one day I heard the Beagle crying as if in pain. I rushed to the rescue thinking it had somehow caught a leg in the incubator but there was the toothless fox growling and biting the Beagle as if trying to dispatch it.
The answer was that here were two mammals that as adults were deadly enemies but it took time and development before the instinct developed in the fox. Both were raised and eventually became guests in outside cages but never again friends. The children named the fox, Jonny Harvard. He was an interesting pet even though a bit of shyness was always present. I inoculated him for dog distemper and for rabies and put a collar on him so we could snap a leash to take him for a walk.
One day seven year old son Chuck, home from a day at school stopped by and opened Jonny’s cage to leash him and Jonny decided to walk himself and trotted off in the woods. I am sure Jonny could cope for himself better than most forms of wildlife with his favorite food of mice. We never did see Jonny Harvard again.
One late night winter storm I thought I had seen Jonny again when in the storm a car drove into our drive honking a horn. I donned a coat and rushed to the door and there before me was a man clutching a red fox close to his chest and with the face of the fox close to his face. Before a word was said I said, ”First gently lower that foxes head down and away from your face.”He did that as he explained that he saw the fox by the side of the road seemingly lost or perhaps it had been hit by a car so he stopped, got out and picked up the fax and thought of me to take it to.
My first thought was of the usually fatal disease, Rabies. With that disease there are perhaps only a few hours before the infected creature becomes violent that it becomes overly affectionate. I had a cage in our house and quickly placed the fox safely in the cage.
There is another wildlife disease that humans get from time to time and that is called Listeriosis. With the infection of listeria the patient also loses fear and that was the eventual diagnosis by the University of Connecticut pathologists. With listeria the disease becomes most active with changes of temperature as such changes cause the exponential growth. Unlike rabies, listeria is spread by ingesting the bacteria.
Next time a man hunt with Bloodhounds.