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Oxford couple hopes to treat wild fox suffering from mange.

Byline: Paula J. Owen

OXFORD -- Nancy E. Yacino has lived on Main Street for 35 years, and in that time, she and her husband have saved squirrels, chipmunks, birds and rabbits they found in their yard in need of help.

They even raised a baby raccoon named Rascal, whose entire family was killed; the Yacinos raised him and kept him as a pet until he died of old age.

So it is no surprise that, being the animal lovers they are, they would want to save a mangy red fox that began popping up in backyards on George, Huguenot and Main streets about a week ago.

Its scruffy appearance -- patches of missing fur and emaciation -- has frightened some in the neighborhood, but in videos Mrs. Yacino has taken, it seems playful and nonthreatening.

Mrs. Yacino said she panicked and called police when she first saw it looking for fallen fruit from an apple tree in her backyard. When she learned from wildlife experts that it probably wasn't rabid, she said her thoughts turned to saving the animal.

"I don't believe in killing an animal that can be saved,'' Mrs. Yacino said. "We want to try to cure it.''

She said they have also spotted a smaller fox that looks like it has mange. The mange makes it hard to identify the animals, she said, and the older one looks too big to be a fox. She said she thinks it looks more like a coyote.

"We are thinking maybe that the bigger one might be a mother and the smaller a pup,'' she said. "The whole neighborhood is very upset and I believe are afraid of it, but my husband and I are not. We see a hurt and helpless animal. It is also starving. You can count its ribs. But it seems reasonably happy. It seems to want to play with my outdoor cat.''

In videos, the fox appears to want to play with Goldie, a stray cat the Yacinos took in several years ago.

Bridgett A. McAlice, a wildlife biologist with the Division of Fisheries & Wildlife, said mange -- a skin disease caused by parasitic mites -- is considered natural population control in predators and is picked up in dens.

"I showed another biologist the pictures, and it is a red fox,'' Ms. McAlice said. "Mange is common and endemic throughout the red fox and coyote population. Most have it, but if they are younger, older or sick, it will become worse.''

Healthy animals can have mange and not die of it, she said. Others will succumb to secondary infections, starvation when they are too weak to find food, or exposure in winter. And it is itchy.

"It sounds like a horrible way to go,'' she said. "That is probably why it was in her yard. Apple trees make an easy meal.

"No one likes to see an animal suffer. We only advise people to assist animals with mange in extreme cases like this one where a lot of people are getting involved. They can help it or put it out of its misery.''

The Yacinos have chosen to help it.

Oxford Animal Control Officer Kelly Flynn said when the Yacinos reached out to her, she contacted a wildlife rehabilitator who explained how to treat the fox by placing flea, tick and mite medicine in food left in the yard for the animal. Ms. Flynn obtained food and medication and provided it to the Yacinos.

"I'm in favor of that at this stage,'' Ms. Flynn said. "If it seems to be bothering people, we could trap it and bring it to rehab. But right now, it is a young fox who is sick and they are trying to help it out. It is pretty common for foxes to get mange, and if it is bad enough and debilitating enough, it can kill them. Our goal is to keep it alive and make it healthy.''

She said there is no reason for residents to be concerned because it has not shown aggression toward anyone.

If people don't want it in their yard, they should take in bird feeders and not leave any pet food outside, she said. They can also scare it away with noise, she said.

"If people in the neighborhood see a fox doing anything aggressive toward people or any neurological signs, they should contact me,'' she added.

Mrs. Yacino said she hopes to get it to come close enough to eat the medicated food.
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Title Annotation:Local
Author:Owen, Paula J.
Publication:Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, MA)
Date:Aug 11, 2013
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