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Virginia wildlife center staff dress as fox to care for orphaned kit

In a video posted to the center's Facebook page Tuesday, Executive Director Melissa Stanley is shown wearing a red fox mask while feeding the kit.
Virginia wildlife center staff dress as fox to care for orphaned kit
Posted at 5:10 PM, Mar 13, 2024

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 video posted to the center's Facebook page Tuesday, Executive Director Melissa Stanley is shown wearing a red fox mask and rubber gloves 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.

The same Facebook post explained why staff are wearing the mask to feed her, minimizing human sounds, creating visual barriers and taking other precautions. "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 Tuesday that the kit was admitted to the center on Feb. 29 after a man walking his dog found her in an alley in Richmond. 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 center 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.

Staff at the wildlife center 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, the staff also put a smaller stuffed red fox in her enclosure. She cuddles up to the smaller stuffed animal at the end of the video.

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

To that end, the center 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 there to the Animal Education and Rescue Organization, which plans to eventually release the kits back into the wild together.

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