Courtesy Catherine Arsenault
Kahnawake’s Animal Protection Department has set two live traps in an effort to catch and treat a fox with mange on Tekakwitha Island.
The department is urging Kahnawa’kehró:non to report any sightings of the fox and to avoid disturbing the traps or the animal itself.
Mange is characterized by the presence of parasitic mites on the skin, causing patches of fur loss and other symptoms. Depending on the type of mange, it could be contagious to humans.
“I don’t think anybody has gone close enough to it for any dangers as of right now,” said animal control officer Brandi Rice. “Our main focus is just to catch it so we can have it treated and release it back.”
She emphasized that the goal is to help the fox and that while people need to stay away, there is no need to fear the animal.
“The fox does not have rabies,” she said. “It does have mange, that’s it. There’s nothing wrong with it. It’s not aggressive. It’s not a bad fox. It doesn’t bother anybody.”
The animal’s appearance has elicited concern from community members who have encountered it.
“He’s really in rough shape. He looks like he is asking for help,” said Catherine Arsenault, who has seen the fox firsthand.
“I feel terrible for him,” she said. “Having a pet shop and being a groomer, I see dogs with allergies and they are poor, but it doesn’t compare to this poor guy’s suffering.”
Arsenault is not the only animal lover in town who is concerned.
“I am happy that Animal Protection is trying to rescue the fox and get it the treatment it so desperately needs,” said Jamie Diabo of Jamie’s Pet Services.
Diabo believes the department and the Kahnawake Environment Protection Office (KEPO) should survey the community to ensure there are no other animals affected by disease in the community.
According to Rice, Animal Protection has not received reports of any other animal with mange. “As far as I know, this is the only one right now,” she said.
Overall, the fox population appears to be growing on the island, according to Cole Delisle, environmental projects coordinator for terrestrial habitats at KEPO. He said the island’s rocky areas make good natural dens for the animals.
Delisle emphasized it is important for community members not to interfere with foxes in general, not just those with mange. People sometimes feed foxes on the island, which could lead to higher populations than the ecosystem can sustain.
“It’s well-intentioned, but that’s something that could either attract more foxes or encourage them to stay on the island even if there’s not enough food for them naturally,” he said.
This could encourage the animals to feed on turtle eggs or bank swallow populations KEPO is trying to nurture, behaviour that has already been observed.
Marcus is managing editor of The Eastern Door, where he has been reporting since 2021 on issues that matter to Kahnawake and Kanesatake. He was previously editor-in-chief of The Link and a contributing editor at Our Canada magazine.