After Colorado firefighters spent 20 minutes pulling eight tiny beings from a storm sewer, they believed that they’d saved a litter of Labradors. However, little did they know that the animals that they’d rescued were not your average pets. Instead, they were something much more unusual.
As part of its work, the Colorado Springs Fire Department tries to keep people in its community safe from harm. In addition to fighting fires, the department also prevents blazes by fitting smoke alarms in people’s houses.
But while tending to these tasks is pretty much standard for firefighters, sometimes crews have to deal with more unexpected duties. And these include rescuing various animals. A quick scroll through the department’s Facebook page shows that the organization has saved all manner of creatures from various scrapes.
For instance, in 2016 one squad saved a dog, a turtle, two cats and seven goldfish from an apartment fire. Meanwhile, in December 2017 the department assisted in the dramatic rescue of an injured dog from a manhole.
And in March 2018 one of the department’s crews attended to a similar incident. It was then that they became aware of eight tiny animals in need of assistance. So, firefighters rushed to help them.
As a far as the squad knew, a litter of puppies had fallen down a storm drain. Their mom was nowhere to be seen. And with no way of pulling themselves out of the hole, it seemed that the animals would likely perish without intervention.
Thankfully, though, Colorado Springs firefighters were on their way. In video footage of their rescue effort, one crew member bends down on his knees and carefully lifts each puppy out. One by one, he lays them on a white cloth before going back for the next.
As the firefighter places one pup down, his colleague enquires, “How many is that? Nine?” The man on his knees proceeds to count the balls of black fur before confirming that there are in fact eight in total. Eight tiny animals that it seemed might have perished if it hadn’t been for the department’s good work.
Once the firefighters had retrieved all the animals, they concluded that they were Labrador puppies – or something similar. Given the creatures’ situation, officers were concerned that they might have been the victims of some kind of pet dumping.
After the 20-minute rescue was complete, the firefighters had completed their task. As a result, they handed the puppies over to the Humane Society of the Pikes Peak Region. And it was then that the crew received a major surprise.
Vets revealed that the animals the department had retrieved in fact weren’t dogs at all. “They took them [to the shelter], and actually one of the vets in that location said, ‘No, these aren’t Labradors, these are foxes,’” Fire Captain Brian Vaughan told Inside Edition in March 2018.
Needless to say, the revelation came as quite a shock to those who’d been involved in the rescue. However, the firefighters were presumably happy that the incident wasn’t the result of any human cruelty. Instead, it seemed that the red fox kits had simply become separated from their mother.
Colorado Springs is located at the feet of the Rocky Mountains. The landscape provides an ideal habitat for foxes. As such, the animals are not an unusual sight in the area. Nonetheless, it is far from common for firefighters to come across fox babies in need of rescue.
Travis Sauder, a manager from Colorado Parks and Wildlife District Wildlife, spoke to CBS4 about the incident in March 2018. “This time of year, there are a lot of animals that are starting to have their young,” he explained.
Sauder suggested that the kits might well have been born in the manhole that they were rescued from. “[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 revealed.
Following their rescue, The Humane Society of the Pikes Peak Region decided not to keep the kits. Instead, they would return them to the place in which they had been found. That way, the animals would have the best possible chance of finding their mother again.
When kits are born, they can’t see, hear or walk. As a result, they stay in the den, where they feed off their mother’s milk. Once they’re strong enough, the animals start to venture out. However, the kits don’t leave their parents until they’re around seven months of age.
“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,” Sauder explained. “If the mom’s not around anymore, we can take them to a licensed re-hab.”
Unfortunately, it appears that any attempts to reunite the babies with their mom were unsuccessful. In the weeks following the kits’ rescue, it was revealed that five of them were being rehabilitated at The Animal Clinic of Woodland Park.
There the foxes will undergo rehabilitation under the watchful eye of the clinic’s vets. Following their recovery, the facility’s co-owner Terri Collins is confident that the animals will return to the wild. “We hope to be able to release all of them,” she revealed on Facebook in March 2018.
You’d think a discovery like this would be somewhat rare, but funnily enough, a man from England found himself in a similar situation back in 2017. He, too, found a bunch of what he thought were abandoned puppies. And it was only after rescuing them that he found out the little fur balls’ unexpected secret.
As he logged onto Facebook, Craig Mcgettrick thoughts no doubt turned to the little puppies that he’d found in the trash. “Who could have abandoned such helpless animals?” he may have wondered. But as he looked at his message alerts, he had an even bigger surprise. After all, if the comments were right, the animals that he’d rescued weren’t puppies at all.
Mcgettrick lives near Liverpool in the United Kingdom, where he works as a mover. In fact, he was on a job with a co-worker in March 2017 when they made their shocking discovery.
The workers were clearing trash from a debris-filled yard when they shifted a discarded mattress. But to Mcgettrick’s surprise, it wasn’t just more garbage that they found underneath the bedding. No, something was alive under there. Five little somethings, to be precise.
Yes, the pair had uncovered a litter of baby animals. Indeed, the creatures were so young that the movers couldn’t work out exactly what they were. Mcgettrick assumed that they were either kittens or puppies, and he decided that the latter was the more likely option.
“Those were probably the only two options I knew of,” Mcgettrick told The Dodo in April 2017. “We thought someone had dumped them knowing we were going to remove rubbish.” But the movers couldn’t bear to leave the helpless little puppers, so they decided to save their lives.
Mcgettrick bundled up his uncovered treasures and put them safely in a box for transport. He thought the best place for them would be a local animal-rescue center. That being the case, he dropped them off and posted their photos up on social media.
At first, Mcgettrick had no reason to think anything was amiss with the babies. They looked a little unusual, sure, but the initial Facebook comments seemed to agree that they were indeed puppies. Someone else suspected otherwise, however, and asked some experts for their opinion on the matter.
Yes, a member of the public sent the “puppy” pictures to the National Fox Welfare Society (NFWS). “We were contacted by a lovely lady called Beccie through our Facebook Page,” NFWS posted on Facebook in March 2017. It was then that the “puppies” were correctly identified.
“Beccie had sent a few photos asking if the babies in the photos were indeed fox cubs. [We] confirmed they certainly were,” the NFWS post continued. The NFWS is an organization with more than 20 years under its belt, so if anyone was in a position to recognize baby foxes, its experts were.
The NFWS is a voluntary group that has committed itself to helping sick and wounded foxes across the U.K. Not only does the organization treat wild foxes, but it also has facilities for those that can’t be rehabilitated. The charity was clearly the best hope, then, for assisting Mcgettrick’s fox “pups.”
“Beccie advised us that they had been taken to a rescue center in Liverpool mistakenly as puppies, not fox cubs,” the NFWS explained. Because the pups were so young, it was actually an easy mistake to make. After all, fox babies don’t develop their distinguishing red fur until they’re older.
The trash-filled yard where the fox family was found had most likely been acting as their home. Furthermore, it’s not unusual for fox cubs to be left alone in their dens when their mothers go out hunting. So it’s not surprising that Mcgettrick had thought the cubs were abandoned puppies.
In any event, the NFWS had to act quickly to return the cubs before their mother moved on. Luckily, Beccie managed to get hold of numbers for both Mcgettrick and the animal shelter holding the cubs. Meanwhile, the NFWS was already getting assistance from a local fox rescuer, Paul McDonald.
Liverpool resident McDonald – nicknamed The Fox Man – works for Freshfields Animal Rescue. He was happy to help, too, and agreed to take the cubs back to their mother. The NFWS also contacted the animal shelter that was looking after the “puppies” and arranged for their collection.
With permission from property owner Karen, McDonald took the pups back to their yard the very same day. Apparently, the mother had already been out looking for her babies. But The Fox Man was no stranger to vixen behavior, as he explained to The Dodo.
“I didn’t give the cubs any milk in order for them to be hungry so they’d cry out and call for their mum, which they did. [They were put] around the same place they were found. I knew the mum would be… checking the place she last had them,” explained McDonald.
The babies were bundled up in a cardboard box with a hot-water bottle to keep them cozy. Then, it was simply a matter of waiting for the mommy fox to continue her search. And just over an hour later, the vixen reappeared and found her cubs.
Initially, the mother only took one cub, and it seemed that she may have rejected the others. Over the two hours that followed, though, the vixen came back. “By 7:01 p.m., Paul text[ed] me a photo of the empty box,” NFWS posted on Facebook.
“All through this, I was letting Beccie and Craig know,” NFWS wrote. “And everyone was so pleased that the cubs were back where they belonged… with mom! Special thanks to Beccie… Craig and Karen for their invaluable help and the Animal Sanctuary for agreeing to pass the cubs on.”
“[Also thanks] to Paul and his team for collecting the cubs and sitting patiently with hearts in mouths waiting for the vixen to return,” the post continued. “This story was only possible because of… every person mentioned above. It really is heart-warming to know that this combined teamwork reunited five fox cubs with their vixen mother. Well done everyone and thank you.”