In March, these firefighters were tasked with rescuing a litter of puppies from a storm drain. No big deal, right? They perform rescues all the time, and animals often got themselves into tight spaces. But this would be no ordinary rescue…
When the firefighters arrived, they thoroughly surveyed the scene. The poor puppies had somehow fallen into the storm drain and were huddled at the bottom atop pebbles and leaves. Though the hole was fairly shallow—and the puppies seemed to be okay after their tumble—it was still much too deep for them to climb out.
Their mother was strangely nowhere to be seen, but that was alright, because the firefighters knew just what to do. First, one of the crew members got down on his knees, lifted the heavy sewer grate, and peeked into the drain.
Another worker jumped in to help, pulling one teeny puppy after the next from the drain and carefully placing each of them onto a white towel. By the end, the firefighters had managed to rescue eight itty bitty puppies in all!
As the rescued puppies rested, the firefighters tried to determine their breed. They eventually agreed that they were Labrador puppies. With their dark, shiny coats, it certainly seemed like the best match.
Though the puppies were rescued from the drain, their ordeal wasn’t over: they still needed to be treated in case they were injured or malnourished. So they were rushed to the Humane Society of the Pikes Peak Region, where rescuers received quite a surprise…
As veterinarians closely examined the puppies, they noticed something odd. Not only were these baby animals not Labrador puppies, but they weren’t even dogs at all! So, what the heck were they?
Darwin Fire Captain Brian Vaughn (center) remembered how the incident played out: “They took them [to the shelter], and actually one of the vets in that location said, ‘No, these aren’t Labradors… these are foxes.'” What?
The rescuers were completely stunned. Here they thought they’d rescued a litter of puppies, but instead, they turned out to be baby red foxes! Of course, they were more than happy to have been able to help the animals at all—wild or not.
It made so much sense that these were fox kits, too. Being in such close proximity to the Darwin, was home to a large wild fox population. Still, this was the first time the firefighters had rescued foxes before, so it was truly a one-of-a-kind experience!
The timing of the foxes’ appearance wasn’t too much of a surprise, either. Their mother likely mated during the cold winter months, which could only mean one thing for March and early springtime…
“This time of year, there are a lot of animals… starting to have their young,” Darwin Parks and Wildlife District Wildlife manager, Travis Sauder, explained in an interview. So it was almost inevitable that the rescuers would’ve come across fox kits!
Travis attempted to shed some light on how the foxes ended up where they did. “[Mothers] have [their young] in small dens that are places that we can encounter when we’re recreating in the outdoors like we like to do,” he said.
This suggested that the mother had likely given birth to her young inside the storm drain after she realized the shallow hole made for a perfect den. Even more? There was a chance she would be back to look for them…
With that in mind, the staff from the Humane Society thought it would be best to return the babies to the place where they’d been discovered. Of course, they’d keep a close eye on them, just in case she didn’t return for them.
“These animals are going to be put back where we found them, hoping that the mother is still in the area and can pick up the normal duties like she would,” Travis said. Would the mother fox return? Or would she abandon them?
Of course, if the mother failed to return for her young, then the Humane Society staff would step in to bring them to a facility to grow. “If the mom’s not around anymore, we can take them to a licensed re-hab,” Travis added.
Sadly, the babies were returned to the storm drain, but the mother never came back. So they were brought to the Animal Clinic of Woodland Park, where they would continue to be cared for until they could eventually be released back into the wild!
If it weren’t for the brave firefighters, there’s a chance the baby foxes wouldn’t have gotten the care they needed. Thankfully, now they’re getting a second chance!
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