|If you find a sick or injured fox, do
not touch it. Even when incapacitated, foxes will regard your presence as
aggressive, and could give you a nasty bite. The thing to do is to keep an eye
on the fox, or get somebody else to stay with it, whilst you phone Wildlives or
the RSPCA for help
|Foxes are subject to injury all the year
round, but injury is particularly common between December and February, when
they become territorial in preparation for breeding and begin to get reckless
and take more chances. Following are some of ways in which foxes most commonly
||Road traffic accidents
||Caught in fencing, or wire mesh
||Caught in snares
||Poisoned (internal injury)
||Self-inflicted injuries as a
result of irritation from mange
||Attacks by domestic animals and other
foxes - this, particularly, when they are weak and partially helpless as a
result of some other condition.
|Where a fox in the wild is
injured, the wounds are likely to become infected. If they are not cleaned and
treated, the infection will spread - and the fox may not survive. If you see an
injured fox around, it will need to be humanely trapped and taken to a wildlife
rescue centre for treatment.
|Mange is caused by a type of mite, which
burrows into the skin of the animal, feeding off of it, and breeding
constantly. The mites are host specific, which means that - although there are
various animals that get mange (e.g. dogs, cats, hedgehogs, humans) - they are
independent of each other and do not cross-contaminate. Although you might get
a minor skin irritation from being in contact with a mangy fox, you will not
actually contract mange.
|So what causes mange?
Unsurprisingly, little is known about the exact relationship between foxes and
mange. What does seem clear is that:
||Foxes with low immunity as a consequence of some other
cause will be particularly susceptible to mange.
|| Mange is spread between foxes through contact. Thus foxes
in urban areas, being more densely populated are more likely to suffer from it
than rural foxes.
|The National Fox Welfare has carried out
research into the causes of mange in foxes, and have suggested that it is
connected to the condition of the skin - a factor which is, in itself,
determined by the diet of the fox. This may provide another explanation for the
prevalence of mange among urban, rather than rural foxes. The diet of urban
foxes consists, at least partially, of rubbish and discarded junk food. Thus
they are more likely to have bad skin; thus they are particularly susceptible
to mange mites.
|Mange mites usually start at the tail
end of the fox and work their way up to the head. In addition to causing
extensive hair loss, they are an irritant. The fox's constant scratching causes
the release of tissue fluids which build up into a thick crust. Foxes will also
chew themselves in an attempt to relieve the itching - thereby causing further
|The condition is debilitating in the
extreme: the fox loses weight, may frequently be seen out in the day, seems to
lose its fear of humans, and may be dead within four months.
|However, if it is caught in time, mange
can be treated.
|Jimmy was a fox cub brought in in
October 2004. He
was seen by a member of the public, and a cage trap was set to catch him. He
was almost bald, and covered in wounds where he had chewed himself. A couple of
months later he had recovered and was successfully released. These photos
illustrate the progress of his recovery.
|Toxoplasmosis is a disease caused by an
internal parasite. The disease has been found in practically all warm-blooded
birds and animals - humans included - but it is thought that the only animal in
which the toxoplasma oocysts can reproduce is the domestic cat. The oocysts are
released in the cat's faeces, become infectious after a couple of days and can
live for years independently of a host animal.
|Certainly, people do not contract the
condition from foxes. People tend to get it from eating meat not properly
cooked, or from cat faeces (although this is less likely). Toxoplasmosis will
have little noticeable effect in people except in the cases of pregnant women
and those with autoimmune diseases.
|Like people, foxes contract
toxoplasmosis by eating animals infected with it. The transmitted oocyst will
migrate from the gut to other parts of the body, forming cysts in the muscles
and brain. This is not necessarily a disaster for the fox: it is thought that
in most cases, the animal's immune system will
|eventually subdue the disease. However, young
foxes in particular - and those that have other problems at the outset - may
find it hard to throw off the condition. Untreated (which of course, with wild
animals, it usually is) it can cause permanent damage.
|Toxo can affect the fox's lungs (causing
pneumonia), its liver (causing hepatitis), its eyes, its central nervous system
and various other parts of its body. As a result of this, foxes with
toxoplasmosis can show blindness, incoordination, extreme sensitivity to touch,
personality change, circling, seizures, and difficulty in chewing and
|Obviously, a wild fox infected with toxo and
unable to resist it will die - not necessarily from the disease itself - but
because the effects of the disease will render it unable to hunt and unable to
escape from danger.
|Foxes brought in to Wildlives are not
routinely tested for toxo, but the condition usually reveals itself in
otherwise inexplicable symptoms. Toxo foxes usually have something strange
about their eyes - a sort of vacant look. The Centre's no-euthanasia policy
prohibits putting to sleep a fox which, although unreleasable due to the extent
of the damage caused by the disease, is none the less able to enjoy a good
quality of life in captivity. Wildlives has three foxes that cannot be released
as a result of toxoplasmosis. They now have permanent residency of the large
outdoor fox enclosures.
|Canine infectious hepatitis is a viral
disease of the liver. It occurs in dogs and foxes - although dogs are usually
vaccinated against it. It passes through contact with the urine, saliva and
faeces of the infected animal. It is not transmissible to people.
|Symptoms include lack of appetite,
vomiting and diarrohea, abdominal pain, pale gums (later jaundice),
neurological symptoms and - following recovery - foxes can develop 'blue eye'
as a result of damage to the retinas. This usually passes.
|Although there is no actual 'cure' for
the condition, if it is caught early, the fox can be treated to boost its
immune system, and may recover.
|Unfortunately, it rarely ever is caught
early. By the time the problem becomes evident and somebody spots the fox and
brings it to a wildlife rescue centre, the fox is seriously ill and treatment
stands less chance of success.
|Canine infectious hepatitis also affects
the fox's immune system - which suggests that an infected fox may become more
susceptible to, among other things, toxoplasmosis. Wildlives has previously
admitted foxes suffering from both problems concurrently.