Poor Mangy Red Fox

I made myself a cup of coffee this morning and was walking toward my laptop, when I caught a glimpse of an animal in the backyard.

For a split second, my brain said "Oh, another deer." (We get a lot of deer.) Then quickly, "Wait, it's tiny... a baby deer... no, a fox!"

I have seen a fox in the yard from time to time. It's very rare and usually just a quick glimpse as they are darting away, bushy tail swishing behind.

This fox was different. For one thing, he was lounging in a patch of sun, apparently in no hurry to be on his way. For another, he had practically no fur, a thin scraggly tail, and he was scratching-- a lot.
I snapped a few hasty pictures, but a sound outside scared him off. (Unfortunately, I grabbed my camera in a hurry without changing the previous settings, so the pics are not great.) While I was talking to Peter and the kids about it, the fox came trotting back through the yard.

We all agreed that this was not a healthy fox. A Google search quickly convinced us that our fox has Sarcoptic mange. Red foxes with mange are lethargic and tend to stay close to houses. They eat under bird feeders and look for bowls of dog or cat food. They hide under decks and rest in the hay in barns.


You can tell a Red fox has mange by its straggly appearance. Our fox is missing large patches of fur, has a thin tail, and was almost constantly scratching himself. Mange is caused by microscopic mites that get under a fox's skin and weaken the immune system, eventually leading to organ failure.

I called Animal Control, but the answer was not good. The woman I spoke to was very nice -- and she confirmed that it is mange -- but said there was nothing Animal Control could do and the fox would "succumb to the disease". From my description of his condition, she said he's probably in the late stages already.

I was a little surprised. I had called Animal Control once before about an injured cat in the woods and they came right out to help. It turns out it is not their policy to intervene when a fox has mange and they recommend that residents do not attempt to help wild animals either. It's just part of nature.

When I pressed, she said rescue groups in some states do attempt to put out medicated food for foxes with mange, but the Game Warden in our area does not recommend that.

I'm trying to resign myself to the fact that it's just a part of nature, but it's difficult to see a sick animal and not be able to help.

22 comments:

  1. hi
    i know what you mean... we live close to a park and have seen similar... here's a site i found that seems informative if you want to try and help ... one can't assume it's in the late stages of the disease ...

    http://foxwoodrehab.typepad.com/my_weblog/2007/10/treating-sarcop.html

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  2. I spoke to a wildlife rehabilitationist yesterday about a mangy fox that is staying in my barn. She said that fox mange is very treatable with a common dewormer called ivermectin. I did as she advised, putting the ivermectin into a ball of raw hamburger. The fox did eat the hamburger. I have to repeat the dose two more times, 10 days apart. She said that this should cure his mange. In the meantime, I am providing food and water as he is in a very weakened condition. Best of luck to all of you who want to help these beautiful animals.

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  3. I have a fox living in the woods behind our house that comes down with mange about once a year. A local wildlife rehab gives me syringes pre-filled with Ivermectin. I inject it into some cooked chicken and give it to him every other week for a month (3 doses). I regularly put a small amount of food out for him on our front walk. Foxes must be creatures of habit because he stops by every night between 10 and 10:30PM. That way I can keep an eye on him in case I notice itching and hair loss before it gets bad like it did the first time. Even as bad as the first occurence was, he had stopped itching a week or two after the first dose, and his hair grew back in about 2 months.

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  4. Thanks for the information-- I finally spotted the fox that has been leaving tracks all over our yard- and he has a scraggly coat and quite a bit of fur missing from his tail.

    My friend runs a cat rescue and I'm going to see if she can get her hands on some Ivermectin. We had a healthy fox here 2 years ago- don't know if this is the same fox...poor little guy.

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  5. I'm quite sure my granddaughter and I just saw a fox - with mange. He was a straggley appearing fox. Thin tail. Out in the light of day, of course, it is very early evening.

    I suppose he, too, is in the late stage of mange.

    To find this article, I typed into Internet: Mangy fox.

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  6. I have a female fox and her two pups living in their den under my shed in the backyard. The female definitely fits the descriptions given above and I see the 2 pups scratching feverishly.
    The mothers coat is almost non-existent and I feel terrible watching the 2 pups suffer with their scratching.

    I am not an adovacte for interferring with mother nature, nor do I want to "feed" these guys, but I like the idea of obtaining a quick dose of medicine and throwing out some medicated meat for them.

    Hopefully there is a local place or my vet that can provide meds.

    Thanks everyone

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  7. Most wildlife rehabs will stock Ivermectin. It is very cheap. You just have to make sure the dose is correct because it is mainly sold as a dewormer for farm animals (horses, pigs, etc.) that weigh much more than a fox. I do not feed my backyard fox enough for him to survive on, just a little to make sure he stops regularly in case I need to dose him with meds.
    We interfere with mother nature every day. We build houses where they used to live, we pollute their living areas with chemicals, etc. Why not "interfere" in a good way for once and save a poor mangy fox?

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  8. You can obtain Ivermectin at most farm supply stores and also online.
    I am currently spiking food morsels for mangy foxes in my neighborhood, hoping it saves at least one of them.

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  9. I have a little red fox with mange that has returned to the birth den under my shed. I want to help this little guy, but I cannot obtain Ivermectin. I spoke with a wildlife Rehab center and they will not supply any, I asked for names of any farm animal suppliers at my local vet and really did not get anywhere with that. I don't want the little guy to suffer and die under the shed. The only other option I have is to call a conversation office which they will come out and kill it. I just want to help the little guy out so he can move on. It would be so easy to treat him if I could get the medication.

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  10. That is just so sad. I can't believe they would rather watch them suffer than supply some meds to help them. Just doesn't seem right. I saw a mangy fox this evening at the park. I didn't know what it was at first until I came home and started searching the internet and found a picture that looked just like this little guy looks at the park. This little one is showing the same behavior described as well. I hope the parks & rec department will help him get better.

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  11. Jennifer in Lockport NYSeptember 3, 2010 at 6:52 PM

    I am dealing with this exact situation right now...Last night (dusk) I was walking my dogs at a public use area (abandoned county bldg. complex) and saw one. I couldn't figure out what it was at first. Itching and sort of threadbare in the fur department. A relative commented on a FB post I made about the ratty-looking fox. She told me about the mange that will eventually kill him. I found a site that explained the dosage of Ivermectin. I went to Tractor Supply and bought horse Ivermectin and put it in some plastic dishes where I saw the fox. I am resisiting the urge to go and see if he took "the bait."
    Perhaps your local co-operative extension might be able to help? If you feel ambitious, horse Ivermectin (1.87%) is cheap, I paid 7 bucks for an amount that will last forever for a fox.
    Good Luck!

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  12. Jennifer, I am treating a family of foxes with 1% ivermectin sandwiches that I got at Tractor Supply per instructions I found on the internet, which by the way warn against horse ivermectin!

    Yvonne in Maryland

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  13. Folks, here is detailed info from a Wildlife Rescue in NY on Ivermectin that should prove helpful:
    Sarcoptic mange is an infection microscopic Sarcoptes scabei mites. Female mites burrow under skin and leave an egg trail behind. This burrowing and egg hatching creates an extremely itchy inflammatory response in the skin similar to an allergic reaction.
    This creates further allergic reaction and more itching, loss of sleep and reduced immune response. Loss of fur, scaly skin and general unthrify appearance is characteristic of Sarcoptic mange. The condition worsens as a skin infection sets in. The immune system is even more compromised and internal parasites (tape, hook and round worms) begin to take over and absorb any nutrients that fox may find. Mangy foxes are usually starving in the late stages.
    These foxes are not a threat to people, dogs, cats, etc. They are close to people and buildings because there may be easy food such as cat/dog food left out in dishes, bird seed, garbage, etc. They are also losing their ability to thermoregulate and need protection from wind, shade, sun, etc.
    Sarcoptic mange is treatable if caught before organ failure begins. The drug of choice is inexpensive and easy to obtain. Ivermectin INJECTION for cattle and pigs is a very effective cure for Sarcoptic mange in foxes. This injectable solution works orally and can easily be slipped in food. It also treats many intestinal worms and ear mites. The catch: it kills the mites living on the skin but doesn’t kill the eggs. These eggs will hatch and reinfect the fox, so it has to be administered many times to kill mites that hatch after treatment. I strongly recommend giving them the Ivermectin every three days for the first three weeks. A spoonful of canned cat food, a chunk of cooked chicken can easily be injected with the solution. Weeks four and five give the ivermectin every five days. Weeks six through nine give ivermectin every ten days.
    Ivermectin comes in two strengths- the 200 mL tall blue bottle is a dilute 0.27% solution for Grower and Feeder Pigs. 0.5 ml (or cc) will treat a 10 lb fox. if your fox is an adult or young adult, it is a 10 lb fox. A lot of people think they weigh more than that, but trust me, a mangy fox does not tip the scales past 10 lbs. Fox pups may weigh less, and you can cut the dose in half. You will need a large needle to draw the solution out of the bottle because the solution is rather thick. A very fine needle and small syringe will make it difficult to draw. Ivermectin is a non- perscription product and available online through many livestock suppliers, such as Jeffers.com. Tractor Supply stores carry Ivermectin too, and if they don’t have the 0.27% solution, you can use the 1% cattle solution- but the dose will be considerably smaller. You will need to get a needle and syring from someone to draw it out though. DO NOT use the pastes for horses or thepour-on for liestock!
    The second strength of Ivermectin is in a much smaller bottle (50 mL) and is a concentrated 1% solution. This injection solution is for cattle and large swine. It costs around $45 at most farm stores- but it will last forever! 1mL will treat a 110 lb cow. 0.5 cc will treat a 55 lb fox - of course we know that there are no 55lb foxes... so, you will need to really give a small amount! I use 0.2 mL (or 0.2 cc) . Giving the solution orally is much safer and has a larger margin for error than injecting it in foxes.
    Of course other wildlife might get to the food before the fox does, so try to use your judgment and administer it the best way that will target only the fox. Ivermectin is a pretty safe drug and won’t harm most wildlife. Some breeds of dogs can be very sensitive to it, particularly the collie family and Australian shepherds . Use extra caution around domestic animals. They use Ivermectin in third world countries to treat different things, such as scabies in humans. Ivermectin is also used to treat dogs and cats for mange, though it is an off label use according to the FDA .

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  14. Ivermectin is inexpensive and easy to obtain. Make sure it's the INJECTION for cattle and pigs. It's a very effective cure for Sarcoptic mange in foxes. This injectable solution works orally and can easily be slipped in food. It also treats many intestinal worms and ear mites. The catch: it kills the mites living on the skin but doesn’t kill the eggs. These eggs will hatch and reinfect the fox, so it has to be administered many times to kill mites that hatch after treatment. I strongly recommend giving them the Ivermectin every three days for the first three weeks. A spoonful of canned cat food, a chunk of cooked chicken can easily be injected with the solution. Weeks four and five give the ivermectin every five days. Weeks six through nine give ivermectin every ten days.
    Ivermectin comes in two strengths- the 200 mL tall blue bottle is a dilute 0.27% solution for Grower and Feeder Pigs. 0.5 ml (or cc) will treat a 10 lb fox. if your fox is an adult or young adult, it is a 10 lb fox. A lot of people think they weigh more than that, but trust me, a mangy fox does not tip the scales past 10 lbs. Fox pups may weigh less, and you can cut the dose in half. You will need a large needle to draw the solution out of the bottle because the solution is rather thick. A very fine needle and small syringe will make it difficult to draw. Ivermectin is a non- perscription product and available online through many livestock suppliers, such as Jeffers.com. Tractor Supply stores carry Ivermectin too, and if they don’t have the 0.27% solution, you can use the 1% cattle solution- but the dose will be considerably smaller. You will need to get a needle and syring from someone to draw it out though. DO NOT use the pastes for horses or thepour-on for liestock!
    The second strength of Ivermectin is in a much smaller bottle (50 mL) and is a concentrated 1% solution. This injection solution is for cattle and large swine. It costs around $45 at most farm stores- but it will last forever! 1mL will treat a 110 lb cow. 0.5 cc will treat a 55 lb fox - of course we know that there are no 55lb foxes... so, you will need to really give a small amount! I use 0.2 mL (or 0.2 cc) . Giving the solution orally is much safer and has a larger margin for error than injecting it in foxes.
    Of course other wildlife might get to the food before the fox does, so try to use your judgment and administer it the best way that will target only the fox. Ivermectin is a pretty safe drug and won’t harm most wildlife. Some breeds of dogs can be very sensitive to it, particularly the collie family and Australian shepherds . Use extra caution around domestic animals.

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  15. Folks,

    Here's a link to a wildlife rehabilitation group in NY with some very helpful info on easily obtaining and administering Ivermectin to foxes with mange:

    http://foxwoodrehab.typepad.com/my_weblog/2007/10/treating-sarcop.html

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  16. Many thanks to the two people, above, who posted the link to Fox Wood Wildlife Rescue's article, _Treating Sarcoptic Mange in Red foxes_.

    A weird-looking fox (at first, I thought it was a coyote/fox hybrid) has been coming to our house daily. It turns out he/she has the *classic* symptoms of mange: eyes almost shut, bedraggled tail, sleeps under eaves, heavy "fur boots" instead of the delicate black fox legs.

    Thanks to the links from your comments, we are hopeful about treating this mange case--my husband is off to buy the Ivermectin right now from a local veterinary supply store.

    Thank you for maintaining this site!!!

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  17. As a follow-up to my January 14, 2011 post, the "weird-looking fox" is no longer weird-looking. My husband and I have named him Silas. Although mssing most of his tail, Silas somehow survived the 2011 winter with several days of 10-15 degrees below zero Arctic cold. He now enjoys a MANGE-FREE new lease on life!!!

    Silas's left hind leg was lame when he first appeared, and it hasn't improved. Also, he lost a further 3 inches from his initially shortened, almost furless tail, and retains only a 4-inch bobtail (cute as could be, but not the warm winter accessory used for balance upon which foxes depend). Nonetheless, he looks healthy and is clearly mange-free. He sometimes sleeps on our porch, and even appears to frolic sometimes!

    Again, MANY THANKS to this site for directing us to the Fox Wood Wildlife Rescue web site that saved Silas from an unspeakable death.

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  18. FYI: The National Fox Welfare Society has an animated slide show that initially helped us to confirm Silas's condition as mange. It really helped us to gauge his recovery as well. Their slide show cover an "eight week period", and it has been exactly 2 months to the day since we began to feed Silas cat food laced with 1% ivermectin ("Normectin").

    The slideshow is here:

    http://www.nfws.org.uk/mange/

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  19. Does having a fox in the neighborhood with mange put the neighborhood dogs at risk for getting mange?

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  20. I've been seeing a funny looking animal around here.
    Nobody believed me from my description.
    (Kinda weasel like and lanky with little fur, pointed ears and long tail)
    Then my wife saw it.
    Next, two of my wif's grandchildren saw it.
    I asked a neighbor if he saw a funny looking animal.
    He said no but his wife saw a funny looking animal matching my description.
    So what does one do in this case.
    My wife Googled our description added
    Western New York and came up with your story and helped us solve the mystery.
    Thanks

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  21. Ivermectin (you need the 1% strength, and it often goes by the name Vetrimec) is available from Amazon for about $30 for the bottle, which will last you for years. Store it in the fridge. You also need a syringe with a needle to get the stuff out of the bottle. Those are difficult to find, but you can also get them on Amazon, cheap. Use 2 milliliters--two of the smallest markers on the syringe-- inject into a piece of meat or a doughtnut (foxes LOVE doughnuts! ) and the next time you see the fox, it will already be growing new hair. I've cured a number of neighborhood foxes with this stuff. Don't worry if you get a little more than 2mm in the syringe, it's difficult to overdose with this stuff, unless you are injecting it into the animal itself.

    Good luck!

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