It goes without saying that wild animals are not meant to live too close to humans. Nevertheless, those that do can get surprisingly attached to the people around them. After a charity rescued this heart-melting fox, for instance, getting her back to living in the wild became a lot more complicated than expected.
What does the fox say? Well, if foxes could indeed talk, they’d probably want to tell the world that they’re not vermin. However, in some places, especially rural areas where they are more commonly found, foxes are persecuted and seen as a nuisance. And one group dealing with the fallout of this perception is Britain’s National Fox Welfare Society (NFWS).
The NFWS is a volunteer-run organization with more than 20 years of experience rescuing foxes that are sick or injured. Naturally, the organization does its best to release the foxes back into the wild once they are healthy. But for some of its charges, there is just no going back.
And although the organization is responsible for many life-saving operations, one animal made a particular impression on the volunteers at NFWS. They first laid eyes on her in 2011, when rescuers found the abandoned baby fox in England’s picturesque Yorkshire.
They named the cute kit Pudding, after the county’s famous Yorkshire pudding. And, as with most of the foxes that the volunteers help nurse back to health, this one was expected to run free again in the wild once she was old and strong enough to fend for herself. However, Mother Nature had other plans.
At the sanctuary was a whole litter of foxes that Pudding was scheduled to meet and hopefully be accepted by as a member of their family. But before introductions could be made, though, disaster struck.
“The day before Pudding was set to join the other fox cubs in their pen, a fallen 200-foot tree closed off the entrance,” ABC News reported back in 2014. And while the fox litter inside was unharmed, all avenues into the pen were blocked off – and therefore access was impossible.
Indeed, nothing bigger than a food dish could get into the pen. Mark Hemmington, the founder of the National Fox Welfare Society, took charge of making sure the litter of kits continued to get fed, but poor Pudding would have to wait until the tree was removed before she could meet her new family.
However, it ended up being months later before clean-up teams chopped down and removed the tree. Finally, once the tree was cleared, the foxes in the pen were old enough to return to the wild on their own – but the same couldn’t be said for Pudding.
In the absence of any other alternative and unable to get her to join the foxes in the blocked-off pen, Pudding had to be hand-fed by her rehabilitators. By the time the tree was removed, then, the young fox had fallen in love with her human carers.
“Pudding had no cubs to integrate with and bonded more with me,” Hemmington told ABC News. It looked like the fox had already chosen her family, but the NFWS still only wanted what was best for her and did what they could to prepare Pudding for the wild.
Unsuccessfully, the charity’s rehabilitators tried to integrate Pudding into other fox social groups. But she had already made up her mind where she wanted to stay. She wasn’t being swayed.
Indeed, Pudding had become too domesticated to release back into the wild – and now she didn’t have the survival skills to even be released safely. Since she had bonded with Hemmington, then, he adopted her and allowed her to continue living at the NFWS sanctuary.
As friendly as Pudding was however, her domestication was a rare circumstance that the NFWS couldn’t avoid. Hemmington, moreover, has firmly warned the public against keeping a fox as a pet. “They are wild animals, and that is where I believe they should be,” he said to ABC News.
Still, the volunteers at the organization found Pudding so adorable that they couldn’t help but share her story; as a result, they featured her on one of its social media pages. Needless to say, the ridiculously photogenic fox soon found a huge following, as internet users around the world fell for the vixen’s charms.
“After posting [a photo] of Pudding the fox on our Facebook page, her image was shared and it went viral worldwide,” the NFWS wrote on its official webpage. “One website who shared our photo of Pudding has at last count had over two million views.”
“Pudding now has thousands of followers on Facebook, and many are asking for Pudding the fox merchandise,” it added. Such was Pudding’s popularity, in fact, that she eventually became the official foxy face of the organization.
And while Pudding always greeted her beloved humans with a wagging tail and welcome yips, she also made a new friend with one of her own species. One day, NFWS received a fox that had been kept as a pet and introduced the animal to Pudding – the two got along famously and swiftly became partners-in-crime.
On March 23, 2015, however, the NFWS released the heart-breaking news that beloved Pudding had passed away. “I feel like I have lost my best friend, and this is one blow that has completely knocked me for six,” the charity’s social media announcement read.
“As far as foxes go, she was my rock,” the announcement continued. But though Pudding may be gone, she will never be forgotten. Indeed, her image continues to be the face of the National Fox Welfare Society. Her memory, too, has been immortalized in the hearts of her adopted family – and no doubt in those of the many around the world who fell in love with the little fox on first sight.