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The sick Fairlington fox and the efforts to trap it have become a local source of fascination

The young, mangy Fairlington fox that’s roaming around Fairlington and the efforts to trap it has become an object of fascination on local social networks.

The saga started over the past week or so when several community members started spotting a sickly, young fox wandering around streets and in between houses. Appearing on the verge of being hairless, it was clear that the fox had mange — a potentially fatal skin disease that causes loss of fur and is caused by microscope mites.

Beyond impacting foxes, mange is also dangerous to household pets and can cause severe itching in humans as well. The disease can potentially be resolved with medication, however.

Karen Dadey, Fairlington resident and a retired major in the U.S. Army, sprung into action. She contacted the Animal Welfare League of Arlington (AWLA) and, then, proceeded to set up a trap herself in hopes of getting the fox to a wildlife rehabber as quickly as possible.

Dadey put a camera near the trap as well, baited it with a 7-Eleven cherry pie — at the advice of an expert, she said — and posted daily videos onto Nextdoor and the popular “Fairlington Appreciation Society” Facebook group in hopes of encouraging others to help.

Dadey admitted to ARLnow that this was her first time doing something of this nature, but felt like something needed to be done quickly.

“I’m just leaning in as a private citizen, trying to do the right thing for my neighborhood, to keep our pets safe and our wildlife safe,” she told ARLnow.

She ended up getting three other volunteers to help monitor the trap, replacing the bait and water bowl, and releasing any other animals that may have inadvertently wandered in. That included several squirrels and a neighborhood cat.

While many applauded her efforts in the comments, some argued that “capturing a wild animal is a really bad idea, not to mention illegal.” They urged her to “leave this to the professionals.” Those exhortations have been met from strong pushback from supporters of the amateur effort to save the fox.

Dadey called those positing critical comments “bullies.”

Images of a young, mangy fox wandering around Fairlington (image via Facebook)

Both Dadey and her critics, however, seem to approve of what happened next. Within days, the professionals at AWLA got wind of what was happening and replaced Dadey’s trap with one of theirs.

Chief of Animal Control Jennifer Toussaint posted on the neighborhood Facebook group, providing background on fox behaviors and advising against handling, interacting, or feeding the animals. She also cautioned that helping a fox with mange can be very challenging.

“For the young fox in the photos we want to be up front and honest with the public. Finding rehabbers willing to take a yearling fox with mange is near impossible,” Toussaint wrote in the post. “This illness is highly transmissible to other animals they have in care and they most commonly recommend humane euthanasia.”

Dadey said that at least one of these issues has been resolved, having already arranged with the Nirvana Ridge Wildlife Refuge near Culpepper, Virginia to take the young fox and nurse it back to health.

In the days since, though, the fox still hasn’t been caught.

Dadey has gotten plenty of photos and videos of what she now believes is a four-month-old female fox, despite sometimes finding her cameras have been moved and the video files corrupted, in what she claims are acts of “sabotage.”

Dadey also switched out the bait from a convenience store cherry pie to a boiled egg and a baked chicken thigh, at the urging of another expert.

Yesterday (Thursday) morning, however, AWLA told ARLnow that the organization has taken over “all further trapping efforts relating to this fox.”

AWLA’s Animal Control Team have coordinated to directly oversee all further trapping efforts relating to this fox. We have worked with the licensed rehabber to bring on a licensed ethical trapping company whom they highly recommended. That licensed professional trapping company has already begun trapping efforts earlier this morning in an effort to catch this young fox and transport him/her to rehab. The Fairlington Villages HOA has graciously given written permission for this to occur. We have spoken with residents who were aiding in coordinating and reporting where this fox was sited and all further trapping efforts and monitoring will be done through this licensed ethical trapping company. We ask residents to please stay back from the traps and to report any further sightings or updates they have to Arlington County Animal Control here: https://www.awla.org/wildlife-animal-control/wildlife-conflict-report/ . We ask that if a citizen happens to notice a fox in any of the licensed traps that they please stay back and call Animal Control immediately at 703-931-9241. These traps are regularly being checked in accordance with all state laws.

Toussaint noted that, in Virginia, “wildlife trapping can only be done with a licensed permit from the Department of Wildlife Resources,” though she did endorse the 7-Eleven cherry pie method of attracting foxes.

“The foxes really do like it and it has worked for me many times,” she said.

Dadey is happy that AWLA is now in charge, saying that this is what she wanted all along. She also acknowledges that setting up a trap on her own may have “broken the law,” but she said she was only trying to do the right thing.

Dadey now believes that there might be two foxes, potentially both from the same litter and possibly with mange. She’s informed AWLA of this possible development.

When asked what she’s learned through this ordeal, Dadey said “everything.”

“Everything about foxes, everything about mangy foxes, everything about mange. This little fox has opened my eyes to how vulnerable foxes are,” she said. “They need our support and protection.”

The two young, mangy foxes that have been seen roaming the Fairlington neighborhood (photo via Karen Dadey/Nextdoor)

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