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Stranger on the Farm

By Kim Everson, DVM

Stranger on the farm

The other evening I stepped outside the house in time to see a bizarre animal trotting through the farmyard. It looked like a wild cat but was much taller and lankier. It was awfully shabby looking and had a small white tuft on the end of its tail. My yellow lab EdGrrr caught sight of it too, and gave chase just as the visual puzzle pieces clinked into place in my mind. Although for a split second I wondered if I might be witnessing a Wisconsin chupacabra, I quickly realized it was a terribly mangy fox!

EdGrrr dutifully obeyed my hollers to leave off the sick creature. In spite of being fully vaccinated, I didn’t want him tangling with a diseased fox. Then I began to worry. What is this fox doing wandering through a heavily trafficked farmyard at dusk? Is it living in one of the outbuildings? Will it harm my cats or dogs? What if my kids come upon it suddenly as they play? Foxes are known to carry rabies, and I was taught to suspect rabies in any wild animal that acts out of the norm like this.

When asked to “get him up,”  EdGrrr immediately traced the fox to our dairy barn. From an unseen hiding place, the crazy fox started hoarsely barking. This too concerned me. Why would such a reputedly sly creature give away his position? At my urging, my husband readied his shotgun and we began to search in earnest for the miserable creature. Our neighbor, whose chickens had been repeatedly marauded by a hairless fox, gladly answered my call for assistance with the hunt. It didn’t take long for him to locate the fox and put him out of his misery.


I know from my experiences with dogs that sarcoptic mange is miserable. The insect parasite makes animals insanely itchy. They scratch at themselves so much they get secondary bacterial skin infections which can lead to serious systemic illness. Upon inspection, this poor fox was nearly hairless. His face was such a mass of scabs it looked like tumors covering his head. Gaunt and bony, the pathetic animal had been stealing chickens in broad daylight. Whether his boldness was due to rabies, starvation or desperation, this fox needed to be eliminated. Doing so performed a duty to the neighborhood animals (wild and domestic), protected my little farm family, and permanently alleviated the fox’s suffering.

The “Circle of Life” is not just a Disney anthem. Death is a reality, but it need not be viewed as harsh. Sometimes it is an expedience to maintaining “herd health.” Sometimes it is a great kindness.

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