When is a Red Fox not a Red Fox | Nitro the Silver Fox…..by Yara Delgado…..

2018 04 08 (99)

Catbird Photo Credit DSDamm PHotography

We Struck Silver When Nitro Received his Permit to be our Newest Ambassador Animal

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Nitro was found in July wandering around a forested area in Tampa. We soon noticed he is very  imprinted to humans, we suspect someone tried to raise him as a pet before setting him loose to fend for himself. After trying to locate his family with no luck, we decided to welcome him as an educational ambassador and we feel extremely lucky to have him!


If you fell in love with him at first sight, you’re not alone. He is extremely handsome! Nitro is a silver fox, which is actually the exact same species as the red fox, with the only difference being its fur coloration. A silver fox fur can range from a bold silver color to almost completely black, and this beautiful animal is part of the Canidae Family, making it a close relative of dogs and wolves.

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Foxes are versatile animals able to survive in all types of environments, from forests to grasslands, mountains and deserts, and they do really well in neighborhoods too. This versability comes because they can eat a variety of foods. They prefer mice, rats and rabbits but they will eat small birds, mammals, reptiles, amphibians, fish, fruits, berries, insects and even carrion if necessary.


Unlike their other canine relatives, they can’t bark or howl. Instead, they produce a variety of high pitched sounds like screams and their most distinct noise is called a “gekker”. It is very common to hear them at night in Florida if you live near a woody area, they gekker when they feel nervous or excited, whether they’re playing or claiming territory. 


It is important to emphasize that foxes are generally not aggressive toward people. If you see one in your yard, don’t panic. If not threatened or injured, it won’t even care you’re watching and it will eventually leave. To discourage a fox from being in an unwelcome place, FWC suggests that you “yell, use air horns or throw rocks towards but not at the fox”, this should scare it enough to leave the area. You can find more information in the article  “Living with Gray and Red Foxes” published by FWC. 

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Can I have a fox as a pet?

I get it. Foxes are beautiful animals that look very similar to our beloved best friends, dogs. People often ask “Can I have one?” when they see one up close because they feel instantly hypnotized by its beauty. But it is very important to educate about the difference between a fox and a dog. Apart from their physical resemblance, they have very different behaviors and diets. A dog is a domesticated animal while a fox is not. Regardless of how similar they look, you will never be able to domesticate a fox to the same extent you are able to do with a dog. 


To answer the question “Can I have one?”, I would like to discuss some rules implemented by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC).

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The FWC is in charge of “managing Florida’s fish and wildlife resources for their long-term well-being and the benefit of people”. For that reason, it has enforced the requirement of permits for wildlife possession, exhibition and sale, and these requirements apply to commercial and private facilities, including individuals. 


These permits ensure that the person or organization in charge of the animal has the substantial experience and specific resources to care for it in a responsible and safe manner. FWC classify wildlife in three classes: Class I, Class II and Class III; each with its own permit requirements. 

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**Spoiler alert: our dear Nitro is classified as Class III.**


Class I include a list of animals that pose significant danger to people, they are prohibited from personal possession and require a permit for commercial public exhibitions. Some of these animals include baboons, cheetahs, chimpanzees, elephants, jaguars, komodo dragons, lions, orangutans, and rhinoceros. 


Class II include a list of animals that can also pose a danger to people but are allowed for personal possession with a permit and the same rule applies for commercial public exhibitions. These animals include African golden cats, African hunting dogs, alligators, caimans, bobcats, giraffes, okapis, honey badgers, howler monkeys, macaques, celebes black apes, wolves, coyotes, jackals, and many others. 


Class III include any non-domesticated wildlife species not listed on Class I or II. Some of these animals include parrots, finches, skunks, foxes, geckos, snakes, and frogs.


(For the full list please visit the Captive Wildlife Rule Review published by FWC.)


To be able to have a fox as a pet you need to apply for a permit from FWC and prove that you have the knowledge and resources to create the environment needed for this particular species. 


The consequences of domesticating wildlife 


Now, not because it is possible you should run to get a permit and have a fox pet. There are many things in life that are legal but inconvenient, and this might be one of those things. 


A few important aspects to keep in mind are:


  • Removing wildlife from nature has serious consequences to the environment. Each animal has an important role in the ecosystem and removing an animal from its natural habitat will have consequences for that and other species sharing the same environment, including humans. Species diversity keeps ecosystems strong and with better chances of survival. For example: opossums eat ticks, cockroaches, rats and mice. They play a very important role as natural pest controllers and if you remove them from the ecosystem, you will find yourself having to do more maintenance than supposed to trying to keep these pests away from your yard. It will also affect domestic animals and other wildlife that can catch diseases from these pests. 


  • Caring for wildlife is expensive and require huge compromises. You will have to adapt to meet the animal’s needs and not the other way around. Each animal requires a different diet, environment and amount of exercise in order to keep a healthy lifestyle. You can’t treat two species the same, regardless of how similar they look or how closely related they are to each other. For example: to care for a bobcat, FWC will ask that you have a cage meeting strict size requirements. The same will happen with feeding, there will be certain foods you will have to provide without excuse and they will surely involve other dead animals. You can’t feed a bobcat a domestic cat diet, let alone a vegetarian diet. These big cats require exercise and an environment where they can express their natural hunting instincts. In no way the cat is going to adapt to living in a residential area, you can keep it in captivity and watch it through a fence but, is that really the way you want it to live it’s 10-15 years lifetime?


  • You may be contributing to the species extinction. Extinction is supposed to be a natural cycle of life, it has been happening and should be happening for natural causes. But nowadays it is happening at a much faster pace and humans have been great contributors to this fact. For example: I’m sure you’re used to seeing tigers at the zoo. Did you know there are more tigers in captivity than there are in the wild? Actually, the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) estimates there are about 5,000 tigers in captivity in the United States alone, while there are approximately only 3,900 in the wild. Tigers are not even native to the USA, they all come from Asia. Monkeys and apes are other animals seriously affected by captivity. Chimpanzees and orangutans are two of the most known primates, chimpanzees are endangered and orangutans are critically endangered. Both are common exhibitions at the zoo and popular pets in Asia. Orangutans are hunted for their babies, mothers are brutally killed in order to be able to sell their babies to people.

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Appreciating wildlife in a healthy manner


I would suggest that if you want to experience wildlife up close, you volunteer for a wildlife rescue organization like ours. All our volunteers share the same passion for wildlife and we would all feel privileged to care for a fawn, a fox, a bobcat, a hawk, an otter, or any wild animal. And we get the experience this opportunity by shadowing our director Kris Porter, who is an experienced zoologist, federal and state licensed rehabber.


Caring for wildlife is a big responsibility that requires long-term commitments that does not fit everyone’s lifestyle. We feel very lucky to have Nitro as an educational ambassador but we would have preferred him wild and free. 


He will now join a team of animal ambassadors that help us spread awareness about different topics that affect our precious Florida wildlife, and his role will specially talk about illegal wildlife possession and its consequences. 


I hope that after this read you feel encouraged to appreciate wildlife as it is, wild and free. Help us educating others about FWC’s requirements that exist in our state in an effort to stop illegal possessions that are not only harmful to the animal itself but to every other part of the ecosystem that surrounds it. 


I invite you to begin looking at the opportunity of sharing life with such amazing creatures as a privilege, and let’s continue sharing  Earth in harmony with other species. 

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If you happen to find any wildlife in trouble, please report it to Owl’s Nest Sanctuary for Wildlife, a Federally and State Permitted Rehabilitation & Non-Profit Organization. The fastest way to reach us is by texting (813) 598-5926 and we will dispatch a volunteer as soon as possible. 

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There are several ways you can be a part of caring for our injured and orphaned wildlife. As a non-profit, monetary donations and supplies are always appreciated. 100% of all gifts go directly to animal care.

Enjoy wildlife, make sure to sign up for our Blog/Newsletter and to stay up to date on our cases, you can follow us on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and subscribe to our YouTube Channel. You can also tune into Live Cams, check our web page to see when one is in operation. 

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