Lonely Fox Kit Misses His Siblings — Then Meets The Perfect Surrogate Family
“They did everything together.”
A few months ago, a litter of newborn gray fox kits were sleeping peacefully together in a field in Vermont when a person taking a midnight stroll stumbled upon the furry pile. The cruel individual picked up the babies, taking them far away from their den and mother.
“This person thought it would be a great idea to take them and sell them on Craigslist,” Medora Plimpton, director of Howling Mountain Wildlife Rescue (HMWR), told The Dodo. “Unfortunately, that’s what happened.”
Sadly, the fox kits were sold off and distributed to three different homes as pets. Vermont Fish & Wildlife found out about the babies shortly after and, thankfully, recovered the entire litter.
They brought the kits to HMWR, where they could get the care they needed as vulnerable wild animals.
As a wildlife rehabilitator, Plimpton always aims to reunite separated babies with their moms. In this case, however, the fox kits’ mom was nowhere to be found.
So Plimpton became the growing babies’ main caregiver.
“They were with me all summer,” Plimpton said. “They spent the summer getting bigger, playing with each other and learning how to be foxes.”
By the end of the summer, the fox kits were big enough to live on Plimpton’s property on their own — a process known as “soft releasing.” Plimpton still provided food for the young foxes, but they were free to roam as they pleased.
Eventually, two of the foxes moved on from Plimpton’s property — but one stayed behind.
“I call him Short Nose,” Plimpton said. “His two siblings left, but Short Nose stuck around for a bit.”
Short Nose wasn’t quite ready to go off on his own like his siblings, but Plimpton and her community of rescued animals were happy to support him for as long as he needed.
This included a pair of soft-released raccoons living in an enclosure near the back deck, where Short Nose liked to stay.
“I think when Short Nose’s family left, he was very sad and looking for a friend,” Plimpton said. “I think he made friends with those raccoons through the enclosure’s wire caging at night.”
Short Nose was drawn to his new raccoon friends, and they felt the same way about him. When Plimpton finally let the raccoons out of their enclosure one day, Short Nose couldn’t contain his excitement.
“As soon as I let those raccoons out, immediately, Short Nose came running over, and they just began this relationship,” Plimpton said.
The fox and raccoons hit it off right away. It might seem strange for these two species to become instant friends, but, in Plimpton’s experience, it’s completely natural.
“These animals, especially when they’re young and they’re babies, they’ll pretty much play with anything as long as they’re furry and want to play with them, too,” Plimpton said. “They don’t care what they look like, as long as they have fun.”
Similarly, raccoons seem to have a special ability to connect with different species under special circumstances.
“Raccoons make excellent surrogate siblings,” Plimpton said. “They will accept any animal into their group. If I have a singleton of a species, and I have a raccoon around the same age, they’ll work really well together.”
And that’s just what happened with Short Nose.
The fox kit and his new raccoon siblings spent every waking moment together. Having similar diets, the little family would hunt and forage together in between energetic play sessions.
Then, one day, they left. Plimpton hasn’t seen them since, but she can only imagine that Short Nose and the raccoons still hang out in the wild.
“I would imagine that they’re still together because they were inseparable,” Plimpton said. “They did everything together. “
Only time will tell if Short Nose and his raccoon siblings will come back to visit Plimpton. The wildlife rescuer hopes to see the little ones again soon, but if not, it’s OK.
At the end of the day, she’s just happy to know that Short Nose, his littermates and his new raccoon siblings all made it back to the wild, where they belong.