Foxes are a common animal to see on your property or when hiking in the woods or on trails. It’s always exciting to see animals in their natural habitats. But what if you come across a limping or injured fox? Our first inclination would be to want to help.
A fox can survive a broken leg and other injuries. Wild animals have an incredible ability to adapt to their circumstances, and more often than not, will heal completely from a broken leg. If you see a fox with a broken leg, it is important to leave him alone, as the trauma of trying to capture it will do more harm than the broken leg itself.
It is entirely normal and understandable to want to help injured wildlife you may encounter. However, it is essential to remember that human intervention, while having the best of intentions, can cause more harm than good. There are other options available for assisting a fox that may have a broken leg.
How to Determine if a Fox Has a Broken Leg
At first, glance, if you come across a fox that is limping, it seems as though the obvious assumption would be a break or a fracture. Remember, that if you see a fox that is limping or suspect has a broken leg, do not try and capture it. If the fox frequents your property or lives nearby, there are some things you can look for to properly assess the injury and locate the proper authorities that can help.
Wildlifeambulance.org advises that “foxes which are holding a leg off the ground need to be watched closely to see how the leg is being used and how much the leg is moved.” Depending on what you observe, you will be better able to diagnose what may be wrong with the leg.
If you notice that the fox is holding the leg up while running, but otherwise able to bear weight on it to walk, then it is no cause for concern.
If the end of the leg or foot seems to be dangling, or the fox cannot control a portion of its leg, then there is a very high likelihood that the leg is fractured. If you notice the fox’s leg to be at an awkward angle, or sticking out, you can assume that it has suffered a dislocation.
What to Do if You See an Injured Fox
If you come across a fox that has a dislocated or fractured leg, the first thing you want to make sure to do is to give it some space.
Wild animals are fearful of their predators, and as humans, we are, without a doubt, one of them.
How to Help an Injured Fox
After taking the time to properly observe the fox and its behavior, you may want to put out some food for it. Injured animals have a hard time hunting, and it may have been a while since the fox has been able to eat.
Feeding the fox also allows it to start getting comfortable in the area and sometimes can aide rescuers that come to collect them. After putting out some food, you will want to start making some phone calls.
If you have any nature centers or animal reserves in your area, these resources are undoubtedly the best place to start. You may also be able to find local wildlife rehabilitators in your area. They will help you assess the symptoms you have been monitoring and also help direct you to the proper agency that may need to come out and rescue the animal.
You may be surprised to learn that most states have Environmental Conservation Police Officers that are there to call if you come across an injured fox, or other sick large mammals such as bobcats, fishers, and coyotes. A simple Google search for Environmental Police in your area will direct you to the proper contact information.
How Is a Broken Leg Treated in a Fox?
In the worst cases of a fracture or a break, the fox will need to be professionally rescued and treated at an animal hospital or conservation center.
Once there, a qualified veterinarian will assess the animal’s injury and perform the necessary surgical options to repair the fracture or break.
Much like with humans, sometimes the leg will have to be stabilized with plates and pins until the bone can heal completely. For a detailed description of one fox’s leg surgery, you can visit the patient archives of The Wildlife Center of Virginia.
Can a Fox Survive Without a Leg?
Depending on which leg is affected, a fox can do quite well managing with three legs. A fox needs its front two legs in order to capture prey and feed itself, so, unfortunately, if the lost limb is one of its front legs, the fox will not survive for long on its own.
The hind legs are generally much stronger, and if left with only one, the animal will adapt to support the weight on the remaining leg. According to National Geographic, when an animal with four legs loses one, “it can often keep its balance by taking a ‘tripod’ stance. By positioning the unpaired leg towards the center of its body, an amputee animal can distribute its weight evenly.”
Foxes have the added benefit of having long and fluffy tails. As a result, if left with three legs, they can utilize their tail to help them balance, shift way, and navigate through their environment.
This is especially hopeful for foxes who’s broken leg doesn’t heal or properly, or one who’s treatment may end with amputation.
“The loss of a limb rarely prevents animals from engaging in natural behavior… Most [tripods] can reproduce, raise their young, and survive just as well as a four-legged animal.”
Source: National Geographic
What to Know About Foxes
- Foxes are most closely related to dogs and wolves but have much more in common with cats.
- Foxes are NOT pack animals. In fact, once they are fully grown, they travel alone.
- A small family of foxes is called a “leash” or a “skulk.”
- On average, a fox can weigh between 7 and 15 pounds.
- Foxes are omnivorous, meaning they hunt and eat other smaller prey as well as fruits, berries, and vegetables.
- Foxes are not dangerous to humans, except in the rare case that they are rabid.
- Foxes will look at small pets and livestock as prey, so be sure to keep your pets indoors and secure any livestock accordingly.
- Breeds of foxes can be found almost everywhere in the Northern Hemisphere.
Chances are if you live anywhere in the Northern Hemisphere, at one point or another, you may encounter a fox. They live among us in rural areas as well as in some cities.
These solitary predators pose no danger to humans and are usually out and about moving from one hunting ground to another. In most cases, you can pay them no mind and continue about your day.
In rare instances, you may find yourself in the presence of a wounded or injured fox. If you suspect a fox near you had broken or dislocated their leg, know that they can and will, in most cases, survive on their own without intervention.
In severe cases, you must make sure not to try to capture and rescue the fox on your own. Be sure to contact your local nature centers or wildlife rehabilitators to find the appropriate resources to provide proper care for the fox. Foxes are incredibly resilient and adaptable animals.