A couple in Durango have been witness to some fascinating fox this year. In April, a male gray fox came into their yard outside Durango and placed his daughters, one alive the other dead for them to see.
They approached, he backed off. They called Roubideau Rim Wildlife Rescue (RRWR) in Olathe for help, and Brenda Miller advised them to take the little one to the Durango Vet Clinic. The mother gray fox was found dead on a nearby road.
Staff at the clinic started an IV, as she was severely dehydrated. A district wildlife manager transported the fox to the Morningstar Vet clinic in Montrose several days later. From there she went to Roubideau Rim Wildlife Rescue in Olathe. She was kept indoors in a large carrier for a couple of days, then outside into a large cage with a red fox kit. The cage has huge boulders in it, which the fox eventually dug holes under, two dead trees and a huge branch of a pine tree. The cage is an unusual shape, as one side goes under tree branches and over a small cliff. Two plastic tarps were on the chicken wire top, to provide some shade besides the trees during summer. Cages for wildlife must always receive lots of sunshine year round. There were also a couple of wooden houses with hay inside for the fox to sleep/hide in.
The fox were fed road kill including snakes, donated deer, elk, mice, rabbit and crane meat, along with vegetables, fruit and mealworms. They were very fond of the crane meat, cherries, raspberries and peas. The last three weeks prior to release, live mice and rabbits were fed. RRWR breeds rabbits for wildlife food, and also receives culls from a family who raises them commercially for meat, and a 4-H youth.
A relay team of Colorado Parks & Wildlife volunteers was set up to transport the two fox back to Durango on Aug. 2 for an evening release. The red fox accompanied the gray fox right back to where the gray fox was found. The couple who originally found her had been watching the father fox all summer. On Friday evening, Aug. 3, the couple called to report (yelling with great excitement!) they had just seen the released gray fox with her father, and the new female he was hanging out with! The red fox was seen a week later. All fox were seen clear into late fall.
Now, the gray fox has her father to teach her to hunt. When baby wild animals are raised by humans, they have very little chance of survival in the wild. They do not know where to find food, how to hunt, seek shelter, water, and who their predators are. They do not know whose territory they are in. When wildlife rehabbers release creatures back into the wild, most times they are releasing into territory that is already occupied by the species being released. This is a rare instance of a known successful release from a rehabilitation situation.
It took some compassionate citizens and numerous volunteers to help this gray fox and red fox return to the wild. Brenda Miller wishes to thank the couple who paid attention and took immediate action to find proper care for the gray fox, wildlife officials, veterinarians and their staff, and the families who provided milk and food for the wildlife.
"Wildlife in Colorado belongs to the people of the state," Miller said. "It is everyone's responsibility to take care of the environment in which these creatures live, which we must share with them. Just look at what it took to care for a gray fox and red fox, to raise them with proper food, to give them the chance to learn to kill their prey before release, and to see that they get the freedom to live their lives in the proper environment for them, so they may make their own decisions, to breed and continue their species in freedom. That's all they want, freedom."