t first, Terra Miskovich thought it was a stray cat. Last summer she was cat-sitting for a friend on Lynn Haven Drive, and noticed a hairless cat (dog, maybe?) in the middle of the street, rubbing itself on the ground.
Spotted, it trotted away and Miskovich, who lives on Elatan Drive, thought “That’s not a dog. It’s a fox!” She returned home and immediately got on social media: NextDoor, the Mt. Lebanon Pet Owners Facebook page and some other outlets, putting the word out that this animal needed some attention.
“When we see them, usually they’re really, really sick,” she said.
As word spread on social media, reports were coming in from people who spotted a “baby coyote” or a “hairless hyena.” Wildlife expert Rebecca Reid, with Wildlife In Need, says mange has been especially bad this year. Reid has a wildlife capture permit, and she got involved in the search.
Mange is caused by mites that burrow into the skin. The itching and irritation the mites cause leads to near-constant scratching, which results in skin infections and loss of fur. The pain eventually becomes too much for the fox to be able to concentrate on hunting, causing it to become weak and emaciated, and causing it to find food wherever it can, scavenging roadkill or eating seeds dropped from bird feeders.
“Terra’s a social media wizard,” said Reid. “She really did a tremendous job of getting the word out.”
As the sightings came in—one at the high school, one at the entrance to Mt. Lebanon Park, once crossing Cochran Road, again at the high school—Reid began triangulating the spots and trying to narrow down the fox’s range, which can sometimes stretch as long as three miles. It took a week, but they were finally able to locate the female fox, who had been sheltering under the bleachers at Blue Devil Stadium, where most likely the cool metal benches gave her a little relief from her skin condition.
Reid says the high school was very cooperative, giving her free rein to set traps, and nearby residents volunteered their yards as capture sites. “Everybody was really nice.” Reid placed a trap and waited and hoped. Then one morning, Miskovich saw a 6 a.m. text message that just read “We got her.”
Reid transported the fox to Humane Animal Rescue’s Wildlife Rehabilitation Center in Harmarville. Katie Kefalos, the center’s director, said the fox was “in rough shape when we got her. We treated her for mange, infections, dehydration and emaciation.” After a lengthy stay at the center, the fox was really ready for the next chapter in her life.
“We wanted to get a video of her release, but she ran out so quickly we couldn’t get it.”
“I was just blown away by the community response,” said Miskovich. “If it wasn’t for them, we would not have found this fox.”
Reid agrees. “There was an element of luck,” she admitted, “but we absolutely would not have found her without all the help.”