Wildlife Rehabilitation - Care for Orphaned or Injured Wild Animals

What to do with a baby fox I found?

The Cute Surprise: Fox Cubs - Most baby animals are cute, but fox cubs—so like our own, dear companion dogs—are among the cutest. It’s rare to stumble across truly abandoned fox cubs. Most of the time, humans working outside inadvertently uncover a den, whether by moving an old woodpile or clearing out a brush lot. These fox cubs are not really abandoned; it is important to remember that. You have disrupted their home, and the adult is gone, but that does not mean the mother won’t return for her brood. If possible, stop working, recover the babies without moving them, and give the mother the remainder of the day and night to move her litter. If you return in the morning and the cubs are still in the area you found them, it’s time to call a wildlife rehabilitator.

Since you’ve left the cubs out for eight hours or more, they’re likely to be hungry. DO NOT feed them. Yes, this seems cruel and unusual, but you need to rehydrate the babies first. Any animal suffering from dehydration does not have the ability to properly digest substantial proteins. Using Pedialyte, or a veterinary-brand canine electrolyte supplement, administer the liquid to the cubs by mouth. If electrolyte supplementation does not perk the newborns up enough, try administering a small amount of sugar water. Hypoglycemia is common in small animals that have not eaten for long periods of time.

Feed the babies in an upright position, every three to four hours, day and night. You do not want to over feed the cubs, so feed only to the point where the stomach appears and feels full, not to the point where the belly is distended. Most baby animals will eat until they make themselves sick; they have no “full” sensation to tell them to stop.

Extremely young cubs will also have to be taught how to recognize the sensation of having to urinate or defecate. This is not a step you can skip. If you don’t manually stimulate waste removal, the infants will not go, and will die from the build-up of toxins in their systems. Take a warm, damp cloth and massage the genital area after every meal. This action is similar to how the mother fox would teach her children out in nature. Dry the cubs and place them in a high-sided container with a heat source until the rehabilitator arrives.

Heat source? A heating pad can be used to keep cubs warm, but the pad should be covered with a towel to prevent thermal burns. Warm water bottles are also helpful, but be careful to secure the bottles so they cannot roll onto the cubs. A soda bottle filled with rice can be heated in the microwave and covered with a sock for a substantial, long-lasting source of warmth. It is also advised that a stuffed animal be placed in the container to act as a surrogate mother. Most very young animals are unable to regulate their own body temperatures, so it is important to monitor this factor.

To find a fox rehabber in your area, click on my nationwide directory of wildlife rehabbers or do an online search for one in your area. In the meantime, you can still care for the fox as advised below.

Phew! The rehabilitator has arrived. Baby cubs under the care of a rehabilitator will be fed puppy milk replacer every three to four hours, slowly decreasing frequency until the cubs are about four weeks of age. At four weeks, puppy kibble soaked with formula or water is left out in a shallow bowl for the cubs to investigate. By six weeks, the cubs should be eating a mixture of dog kibble soaked with formula with chunks of baby chicken, mouse, or rabbit mixed in. Though they may seem strictly carnivorous, foxes are actually omnivorous and need a very balanced diet.

Foxes in a rehabilitation center will be reared in groups to prevent desensitization toward humans. Feeding time, once the foxes are old enough to eat on their own, is administered by use of puppets or mechanical feeders. Because mankind and nature live in such close proximity, it is important that foxes retain their instinctual fear of humans. A fox that sees no threat from man may become a nuisance around homes and communities.

Before the fox is released, it must demonstrate the ability to hunt. Live prey, released into large enclosures, will test the rehabilitated fox’s hunting skills. Eventually, through trial and error, the fox will learn how to stalk and run down prey. By ensuring a balanced diet, the professional rehabilitator will also ensure the fox has a keen taste for the proper berries and insects it will also need to feed on in the wild.

After time in an outdoor pen to guarantee proper adjustment to temperature and weather, the fox will be relocated to a sanctuary or protected plot of land. A manmade den will generally accompany the fox, and will be placed in a covert location. The fox can return to the den if need be during the first week of its freedom. Food will also be left in decreasing quantities to help promote survival while the fox acclimates. Eventually, the fox will locate a more ideal den on its own and likely find a mate.

Because of the time and effort required to care for wild animals, consider a donation to your local wildlife rehabilitation center.

Here are some other advice articles for wildlife rehabilitation:
What to do with a baby bat I found?
What to do with a baby deer I found?
What to do with a baby fox I found?
What to do with a baby opossum I found?
What to do with a baby raccoon I found?
What to do with a baby hawk or eagle I found?
What to do with a baby reptile I found?
What to do with a baby mouse or rat I found?
What to do with a baby songbird I found?
What to do with a baby squirrel I found?

Please be kind to wildlife! Our wild animals are intelligent, and believe it or not, they definitely have emotions!
If you have any questions about this wildlife rehabilitation website, just email me at dseeveld@gmail.com