If you walked by a storm drain and heard what sounded like the unmistakable yelp of a puppy in need, what would you do? If you were an animal lover, you would probably check inside to see if some cute critter needed to be saved. Even many people who do not consider themselves “dog people” or generally animal friendly would stop and have a look. It is part of our humanity to react to such sounds of distress. Curiosity and empathy will lead us to investigate in a situation like that.
That is exactly what happened to two Colorado Springs residents back in 2018, when they experienced just this situation. Frantic yelps and whining was coming from a storm drain, drawing the attention of passerbys.
Upon looking inside the drain, the two responsible citizens witnessed a seemingly dire situation: what seemed to be nine newborn puppies were stuck inside squirming, yelping, and unaccompanied by their mother. The citizens responded by instantly calling the Colorado Springs Fire Department to the scene.
The heroic firefighters arrived and prepared for a typical animal retrieval, something they, unfortunately, have to do quite often. They were there to save the puppies and carefully prepared to lift them out of the drain and transport them to the next vet. However, although they meant well and performed their job with the best of intentions, their actions turned out to do more harm than good. Once they arrived at an animal shelter nearby, the vet sadly had to inform them that these “puppies” could not be admitted.
Be sure to reach the end of this article to see the full video
The puppies had been carefully removed from the storm drain that was a couple of feet underground, and the firefighter present placed them gently on a towel for safety. Their mother was still nowhere to be found, so the firefighters suspected this might have been a case of an irresponsible dog owner dumping an unwanted litter of puppies somewhere outside. Sadly, these things happen every now and then, exposing far too young animals that would still need the safety and sheltering of their parents to danger and the harsh world. The firefighters, hoping to rescue these little newborns, took them to the local animal shelter post-haste. The veterinarian then gave them some shocking news at the shelter and refused to take the little things in.
The nine newborn puppies they brought to the animal shelter were actually nine wild red fox kits. Foxes, being genetically related to dogs, share many characteristics with their domesticated cousins. In addition, although the wild red fox is named and recognized by their bright red fur, young kits of this fox type are actually black until their adult fur grows in. Mistaking newborn red fox kits for newborn black labradors is, therefore, an easy mistake to make!
The firefighters who had been called to the scene had not realized that they were carefully picking up wild animals. The local animal shelter was not prepared to take in and rehabilitate wild animals, and additionally, it was quite possible that these kits had not been in actual danger at all. So the shelter’s veterinarian rejected the small fluffs of fur.
Speaking to Inside Edition, Fire Captain Brian Vaughan explained that the revelation came as a big surprise to the firefighters:
“They took them [to the shelter] and actually one of the vets in that location said, ‘No, these aren’t Labradors, these are foxes. [The firefighter] was just in shock.”
Red fox mothers commonly deliver their litters in small spaces outside. Stumbling upon these litters and other groups of young animals is quite common, especially in the springtime when animals in the Colorado Springs area are typically raising their young.
If you ever find a litter of wild animals, leave them alone!
Their mother is more than likely close by and has not abandoned them. However, wild animals fear humans and will keep their distance, hoping their litter will remain hidden. Disturbing the litter, or worse, moving them, will distress the litter and the mother! After discovering their mistake, the firefighters quickly returned the kits to where they were found. Wildlife officials planned to periodically check-up on the litter to make sure the mother does eventually return. Sadly, this was not the case and the litter ended up being taken in by the Humane Society, where they were kept until they could be rehabilitated into the wild.
In some rare cases, a wild animal might not return once its litter has been taken away, as it can smell the scent of humans and “give up” the litter as lost. It might seem harsh to us humans, but wild animals sometimes have to prioritize survival and cut their losses.
See the unfortunate “rescue” yourself in the video above. Have you ever found a baby wild animal or rehabilitated an animal? Tell us your story and pass this along to friends and family.
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