LANCASTER COUNTY, Pa. (WHTM) — It’s a big day for six little foxes. Friday evening, Raven Ridge Wildlife Center released them into the wild. They were the last release of fox kits, in a year that’s seen seventeen of them come into the center.
Tracie Young, Rehabilitator for Raven Ridge, says she can’t remember ever having so many baby foxes. In fact, more foxes came in than they had places to put them.
“We had some that came in so quickly, so many, that we did reach out to other centers to help us, even the caseload, take some from us,” Young said.
The foxes came in from many different locations. Some were a two to three-hour drive away from Raven Ridge. Another was literally right down the tracks from the center. The one thing they had in common was they needed help.
“They’ve all been in some sort of critical condition, and we’ve been able to rehabilitate them,” Young said.
By far the worst case was Pixie.
“Pixie was found on the railroad tracks up in Marietta. Just covered in grease, from the railroad. The finder was not even sure if she was alive,” Young said.
Ron Sensenig was the person who brought her in.
“My son’s friend found her first and got ahold of me,” Sensenig said. “He didn’t know what to do, so I was like ‘Okay I’ll be there.’ I went up there, and sure enough, it was worse than I thought it was.”
“She definitely had head trauma,” Young said. “She got half of her tail amputated by the train, but it took weeks to get her cleaned up, stable.”
Once healed up, the next task-teach the foxes how to be foxes. With no adult foxes available to foster them, Tracie had to rely on the kits to teach each other.
“We joined this group here, we individually raised them, treated their wounds, and then we were finally able to join them together, as kind of like a kit family,” Young said. “When we moved them outside, and moved them together, they wilded up more.”
The foxes played together, developed their social skills, and honed their hunting abilities on a series of loved-to-death pet toys. Then they announced, in no uncertain terms, that they were ready to go.
“They destroyed their pen,” Young said with a laugh. “They started their instinct of burrowing, in the middle of the pen, making a den, which is what they would do in the wild. So they would go down in the den when we came in to feed and clean, which is natural for the foxes, and we knew that they were ready to go”
But when they got to the release site, the foxes took their time leaving their crates to check out their new territory.
“They wanted some time to acclimate to their surrounding,” Young said.
The first two to go out kept circling back to check on the progress of the other four. Young says the fox kits will stick together as a group for a while, before going their separate ways. We won’t tell you where they were released, other than to say it was as far from humanity as it’s possible to get around here.
“They’re going to have enough daylight to acclimate, and find where they want to be for the evening,” Young said. “But this is a really safe place, this is one of my favorite places to release them, that I know they are going to be safe.”
Ron Sensenig was there to see Pixie off. He’d been keeping tabs on her progress.
“I was in constant contact, whether through messaging or calling. I was always checking up on her,” Sensenig said.
His feelings when Pixie dashed off?
“Bittersweet. Normally I’m a tough guy, but this one almost got me to break,” Sensenig said.