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Fox sick with mange mite roaming streets of St. Joe

ST. JOE, Mich. -- Berrien County Animal Control is asking people not to approach a sick fox as they work to catch it.

“When you see any wild animal out in the day time, it’s sick,” said Val Grimes, director of the county’s animal control.

That’s why someone was able to snap a photo of the fox in the middle of the day recently.

The St. Joe Department of Public Safety then shared a warning on Facebook using the photo.

“We see [mange mite] quite often when there’s a large population and they start infecting each other,” Grimes said. “And it’s just nature’s way of cleaning up the area.”

Grimes said mange mite is a skin disease caused by tiny mites that burrow in an animal’s skin.

“Generally the big signal is the loss of hair,” she said. “And this particular [fox] has really lost a lot of hair. He’s thin. I know he’s having trouble hunting because he’s weakening.”

Joe DeFrancesco said he’s seen the fox numerous times outside his house at the corner of Vail Court and Old Lakeshore Road in St. Joe.

The fox has also been spotted on recent days along Wallace Avenue, South State Street, and Lakeshore Drive.

“No bushy tail,” DeFrancesco said. “His coat is rough-looking.”

He said the fox often walks right along the sidewalk that’s across the street from his house.

On Tuesday, he said the fox crossed the street and began scratching itself up against a utility pole.

“I talked to the neighbor across the street; she has two young daughters,” DeFrancesco said. “And I mentioned to them that [the children] may interpret that fox as being a dog....and….to warn them, and to stay away because it is sickly.”

Grimes said her team has tried to grab the fox using live traps, but they’ve so far been unsuccessful.

Because the animal is under the weather, and in a residential area, she said it’s important that people leave it alone.

“Do not feed it,” Grimes said. “Do not set food out for the [raccoons] or for the foxes or for the cats. Cover up the trashcans and leave it alone. It is a wild animal, and treat it as such.”

Grimes added that her crews will not try putting medicine in food and leaving it for the fox because another animal, or a child, may eat the food; and they’re not sure if mange mite is the only illness the fox has.

She also said they will not tranquilize the fox because the county animal control is not certified to use tranquilizers.

If you see the fox, do not approach it or try to save it.

Grimes said you should call Berrien County Animal Control immediately at 269-927-5648 and give them the time and location you saw the fox.

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