Chicago, IL

Our Little Foxes

Sherry McGuinn

Rescuing wildlife...is wild.

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Aside from Covid, for me, the most memorable part of Summer 2020 is the following.

Note: For those of you who watch Turner Classic Movies, this story has nothing to do with the 1941 Southern potboiler starring Bette Davis called Little Foxes. I highly recommend this awesome flick, especially if you’re into watching greedy family members tear each other apart.

Now, for my story:

My husband and I have lived in this Chicago suburb for twenty years. There are lots of critters around here, nocturnal mostly, like possums, skunks, and raccoons. We can only guess at how many have hunkered down under our deck through the years

In all the time we’ve lived here we saw perhaps one fox. That changed over the last few weeks when we started seeing them nearly every day. Hanging out in the middle of the street, on a sidewalk or in someone’s yard, and seemingly not skittish where we humans are concerned.

We noticed that the foxes, most of which were young-uns or “kits” as they’re called, did an awful lot of scratching. They were also very thin. Unnaturally so.

From visiting the site Nextdoor.com, which I’ve discovered is rife with assholes, by the way, (just sayin’), I learned from some of our neighbors that at least two fox families reside in our hood. Red foxes, which are the largest of the species.

As I know nothing about fox gestation, I can’t explain the sudden surge in the popularion, but I know these babies are hungry.

One individual on Nextdoor posted a picture of a kit that he had trapped and transported to a wildlife rescue facility not far from here. The poor thing was covered with mange, a skin disease caused by parasitic mites, as well as lice, and fleas. Hence all the scratching. The thing I didn’t know about mange, was that it affects the eyes as well as the skin, making it hard for the animals to hunt. No wonder they were all so skinny. That alone broke my heart,

Since a couple of the kits were spotted near our home, a woman on the site asked if I’d mind setting a trap on our property. The transport to the rescue facility would be left up to her and another woman.

I’m an animal lover, folks. As is my husband. I was hesitant, but at the end of the day my conscience wouldn’t allow me to say “no.”

So my new friend brought the trap over and showed me how to use it. Several times. This shit ain’t easy, people. Without going into too much detail, you have to hold down two or three whipsnades with one hand while pushing the back of the cage down with the other. Needless to say, I screwed up my first few attempts.

She also gave me this extender thingy with a claw at the end to pick up a plastic bowl of food and place it in the front of the cage. The idea being that the fox walks all the way in and steps on the mechanism that triggers the door to slam shut, thereby trapping the little critter.

Foxes are members of the dog family, and they love their meat, so I bought some ground beef and rotated that with raw chicken thighs that my other rescue buddy threw into the mix.

In order to establish a routine and hopefully a modicum of trust, I left the food out in the morning and again at around dusk, which is supposedly when foxes are most active.

I did not leave the food out all night as the last thing I wanted to do was get up close and personal with a skunk. I know they’re out there; I just don’t need the visual proof.

As the temps in the Chicago area have soared into the 90s, I also left a bowl of water next to the food.

Hell, the only thing missing was a candle and a vintage Montrachet.

I repeated this drill for a couple of days and Eureka — the food disappeared. Even the water was lapped up.

It was time to get the trap ready. I placed it in the front of our home in the back of a large bush. For privacy dontcha know. Then I wrestled the damn thing open, placed a comfy towel in the front, and the food in the back. Everything was all set!

My husband and I got comfy in our living room and peered out the window. We had no idea how long this was going to take or IF it was going to take.

After several minutes and a glass of wine, we saw a kit! Slowly and hesitantly, it made its way over to the trap, where I’d also scattered dry food in the front to create a “trail” that would lead the kit into the cage.

Foxes are no fools. This baby took his time. (Or hers, as we later found out.) He’d snatch a piece of the kibble and then jump back. Circle the cage. Peer inside. Like that.

Finally, hunger got the best of the kit and tentatively, he stepped into the cage. We held our breath as he moved closer to the food and then BAM! We had him!

My husband ran outside and covered the cage with a towel because the animal was naturally quite agitated. Wouldn’t you be?

I quickly texted one of the women who raced over with her SUV. Carefully, we placed the cage in the back and she took off toward the sanctuary.

What a feeling! Ours was the third kit that had been rescued. We found out that “he” was a “she.”

All the kits are being treated for mange and the other nasties and are living the high life. From what I understand, the facility is beautiful and the owners, a married couple are truly dedicated.

That was the best I’d felt in weeks. Funny how that happens. You do something good and in return, you feel good.

Another kit was spotted down the street and the homeowners have set their own trap. Good news because that meant we had fulfilled our mission.

My high quickly dwindled when I was reminded that Mom is still wandering around somewhere, and she’s in a bad way.

We’ve now been “gifted” with a bigger cage. I only hope we get her before the large coyote that was spotted a couple of blocks away, does.

It’s a freakin' jungle out there.

Note: We rescued all three kits and they're blossoming at a local wildlife rescue facility!

© Sherry McGuinn, 2020. All Rights Reserved.

Sherry McGuinn is a slightly-twisted, longtime Chicago-area writer and award-winning screenwriter. Her work has appeared in The Chicago Tribune, Chicago Sun-Times, and numerous other publications. Sherry’s manager is currently pitching her newest screenplay, a drama with dark, comedic overtones and inspired by a true story.

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Chicago, IL
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