6 min read

People Spot Mysterious 'Dog' — And Realize She's Not What She Seems

"'Y’all, this is not a chupacabra.'"

In downtown Ocean Springs, Mississippi, a mysterious animal was seen roaming the streets, darting in and out of backyards.

For nearly two months, the strange little visitor hid from the summer heat under pickup trucks, hunting for food at night. The animal’s frail body was completely devoid of fur and covered in dark, leathery scabs. 

Too small to be a coyote, some claimed it was a dog with mange while others in the neighborhood suggested that the hairless creature was, in fact, a chupacabra.

A hairless fox mistaken for a chupacabra
Margaret Raines, Missy Dubuisson

However, when Missy Dubuisson, founder and director of Wild At Heart Rescue, saw a photo of the alleged monster, she knew immediately the animal was nothing to be afraid of. 

“I told them, ‘Y’all, this is not a chupacabra. This is a fox with no fur,’” Dubuisson told The Dodo. “But you don’t see animals without fur here or anywhere, and if they do, they usually have a problem — an autoimmune disease or some type of skin issue.”

A fox suffering from mange in Ocean Springs, Mississippi
Margaret Raines, Missy Dubuisson

Dubuisson could see that the little fox was suffering from demodectic mange, a skin disease caused by mites burrowing into the fox’s hair follicles. “In stressful conditions or heat or when they become mature, these mites can just take over the fox’s body and cause an autoimmune response,” Dubuisson said. 

The infection is easily treated — as long as someone could catch the fox.

Hairless fox eats food in trap
Margaret Raines, Missy Dubuisson

Foxes typically evade normal traps, noted Dubuisson, and if the USDA was called in to trap the fox, the animal would most likely be euthanized. 

Margaret Raines, a local feral cat rescuer, refused to let that happen. She bought a special trap, which she camouflaged with leaves and branches, and set up a camera. Over the course of 50 days, she left tempting snacks around the vicinity of the trap, hoping to earn the trust of the hungry fox.

Naked fox captured by rescuers
Margaret Raines, Missy Dubuisson

Raines caught plenty of curious cats and possums, but the fox remained elusive. Then, one night in July, the hairless animal finally became curious enough to enter the trap.

Her rescuers were so excited when they found her there safe and sound:

Margaret Raines, Missy Dubuisson

When the fox arrived at the rescue, it was clear that she was uncomfortable and confused. But as her rescuers treated her skin condition and gave her medication for the pain, her spunky attitude returned.

"She was scared at first and very shy," Dubuisson said. "But now she realizes that she's getting her food, she's getting her strength back and she knows we're not gonna hurt her. They tend to trust you a little bit, but we never let them lose that wildness."

The little fox's rescuers expect to see big changes in the next five to 10 days, predicting an "amazing transformation."

Once the young fox has regrown her coat, she can finally return to the wild: "We would like to release her back in the same area because it's her familiar territory," Dubuisson said. "There's a lot of foxes that area — it's by a harbor where they eat fish or birds, so her diet would be good there — as long as she's strong enough to hunt."

For now, it seems the fox is just grateful to be getting the help she needs, all thanks to rescuers who wouldn't give up on her.

To help support this fox on her road to recovery, you can make a donation to Wild At Heart Rescue.