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Rare species of fox found in Rocklin

By: Brody Fernandez Of Gold Country Media
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An extremely rare silver fox was found Saturday in Rocklin after reports of a suspicious animal lurking around the Whitney Oaks greenbelt, according to Gold Country Wildlife rescue officials. “Silver foxes are a melanistic form of the red fox and both the red fox and the silver fox are not native here to Northern California,” said Gold Country Wildlife Rescue President Sallysue Stein. This region is home to the Sierra Red Fox and the Sierra Gray Fox, according to Stein.

Stein suspects that the silver fox found in Rocklin “is likely” from the pet trade.

“This animal was prized for its fur coat because (the silver fox) is a genetic variation of a red fox,” Stein said. “We suspect this animal came from out of state since there's really no fur trade here in the 21st century.”

When the fur trade was prominent in the U.S. during the 19th century, this fox species was bred for its silver color and was very sought after, according to Stein.  

“We suspect that someone had this animal as a pet and it either escaped or the owner realized it doesn't make a good pet, so they dumped it,” Stein said.

The fox is uncharacteristically domesticated, according to Stein.

“Normally, these animals are very ‘bitey’ and it's a wild animal as well,” she said. “(This one) was partially calm during the rescue but it’s not an animal that can handle domesticity.”

Since this animal would not survive being placed in the wild, according to Gold Country Wildlife Rescue, there is a back-up plan.

“We are pretty sure this animal doesn't know how to hunt,” Stein said. “To dump this animal  is just not a humane way to treat it. We want her to have a good quality of life.”

Ben Nuckolls, a Gold Country Wildlife Rescue volunteer, safely captured the fox Saturday.

“Saturday morning is when I responded to the call that came in Friday night,” Nuckolls said.

According to Nuckolls, a  Whitney Oaks resident reported that the fox was sitting at a house’s sliding glass door and making begging or crying noises, as if it wanted food.

“The animal even responded to our whistles. Which is why we are confident it was a habituated animal that escaped or the owners finally abandoned it,” Nuckolls said. “This animal had an extremely clean coat with no external parasites (fleas, ticks, mites).”

Nuckolls explained what the consequences would be if this silver fox were to mate with foxes in the area.

“We can’t have non-native species interacting with our native species. It would be detrimental to our native species (of fox),” Nuckolls said, “because it's another predator competing for food resources and there’s a possibility of creating a sub-species as well. We want to protect our native resources, which is mostly our Sierra Gray Foxes.”