Ticks, Tock! Gray Fox Beats Clock!

A week ago at Humboldt Wildlife Care Center we received a call about a fox paralyzed beneath a porch in the oceanside community of Samoa. Gray Fox (Urocyon cinereoargenteus)are resident on the long peninsula that divides Arcata Bay from the sea, inhabiting the dune forests and grasses. Although common, they are seldom scene.

Volunteers from the Care Center went out to the scene and found the fox lying still, barely responsive. Once back at our facility, she was found to be suffering from a quite awful infestation of ticks.

Besides giving her anti-parasitical medicine, we also removed as many ticks as possible. After wards, with fluids and food and rest, she was given a quiet place to recover. We were not sure what her ailment was, but the possibility of tick paralysis was an immediate concern. Tick paralysis is caused by a neurotoxin that is found in the saliva of ticks and is transmitted to an animal while a tick is attached and feeding. Beginning with feet and legs, eventually the paralysis will spread to the torso and lead to respiratory failure, and of course death. The primary treatment is removal of the ticks.

Removing the ticks.

Only some of the ticks that were removed.

Her first night in care, after tick removal.


On her first night in care, her prognosis was extremely guarded. She was provided a safe warm place, and food and water. As we closed the door for the night, she could barely lift her head.

The next morning she was a different animal. Fierce and growling, she’d eaten her food, drank her water, and was unevenly standing on all four feet. We moved her outdoors to our small mammal housing. We provided her with an appropriate diet and left her alone.

Within a day she was running easily and scaling the walls when staff went in to clean or feed.

After a week we were certain that she was recovered. She’d gained 500 grams in 6 days! Her coordination was complete. She was fully capable. We took her back to the Samoa peninsula and released her back to her wild and free life.

Back in her glory after several days in care.

There are simply some things a healthy fox can do that we can’t…

Quickly removing her from the net: her displeasure is loud and clear. 

With a burst she is going…

going…   and at last gone from our sight, back to her private freedom.


At the time this fox was reported to us, she was in a countdown to death. Unable to move, vulnerable, and with a worsening condition, it is doubtful that she would have lived through the night without rescue. Our ability to act is what saved her life. Because of your support, we are able, even though our resources are few, to respond quickly to calls and provide life-saving care. This fox beat the clock because we had a running start, thanks to you!

Please help us reach our fundraising goals for this month and next. Our busiest season is upon us. We need to raise $20,000 by May 31.  We already have wild orphans in care and many more will come. They need your help! Please donate today!


all photos: Bird Ally X