A wily, mange-covered fox that was frequently spotted around various parts of Columbus for the past two months has been captured by the city’s Animal Care Services and is being rehabilitated at Utoptia Wildlife Rehabilitators near Hope.

The fox, who isn’t being given a name, reportedly was seen throughout Columbus neighborhoods by people who took a second look, as the thin animal had lost a great deal of its coat and appeared to have swollen eyes.

The fox frequented the Garland Brook area where it had lived for several years, finding abundant food and co-existing with humans without complaint, said Kathy Hershey, who operates Utopia.

However, at some point, the fox became afflicted with an advanced case of mange, which caused him to lose his fur, along with developing secondary yeast and staph infections, which spread to his eyes, Hershey said.

Hershey believes it was a reaction to the infection that caused the fox to leave its neighborhood and begin foraging elsewhere in Columbus.

The fox was seen in parking lots of fast-food restaurants, trotting along Central Avenue and at one point was in the Columbus Police Department parking lot. Some said the fox apparently liked the hamburger buns sometimes found in the fast-food parking lots.

Animal control officer Travis Anderson captured the fox last week in the area of 23rd and Midway streets, after the fox ran into a culvert and an officer blocked one side, and a helper blocked the other, said Kevin Konetzka, animal control officer.

The fox calmed down once he was placed in the carrier, Konetzka said.

Hershey said the animal was lucky to be corralled, as a fox in that condition would have difficulty being able to locate food and could have easily been hit by a car.

Mange causes intense itching and is often seen in foxes, squirrels and raccoons, Hershey said. The itching, which for some animals is unbearable, can cause the animals to approach humans when normally they would not do so, she said.

Foxes are normally wary, nervous animals that avoid humans and don’t like to be seen, she said.

The fox is receiving medication for his infections and is already perking up after treatment at Utopia, she said. The medication is clearing up his eye infections quickly.

At first, with food as the lure in a clean crate, the fox would move into the new crate without complaint, she said. Now the fox has been scampering into the second crate, grabbing the food, and hi-tailing it back to the crate he was in, Hershey said.

Utopia will be treating the fox for the next few weeks and see how far the animal progresses, Hershey said.

She said she hopes to return him to the environment where he grew up even though it is more urban than a fox should have, but she fears he knows no other way of life and would not survive if released in the wild.

Amazed at the number of people who spotted the fox before he was captured, Hershey said she was grateful the animal is recovering.

While skittish around humans as he recovers, he has discovered the food at Utopia is to his liking during recovery, Hershey said.

Hershey said she’s giving some of the fox’s medication to him in hot dogs, and the animal has no complaint about that.

As the fox rehabilitates, Utopia workers are concentrating on making sure he doesn’t reinfect himself.

This fox isn’t the only one Hershey has at Utopia.

The facility has a domestic fox that someone picked up from a fur farm and thought the animal would make a good pet, only to find out that foxes are not suitable pets, she said.

Utopia also has a mother fox that was hit by a car and left for dead on the side of the road, and a baby fox that fell into an abandoned well at a farm.

“Oh, we’ve got foxes,” she said.

About Utopia

Where: Utopia Wildlife Rehabilitators is located on about 9 acres at 18300 E. County Road 200N in Clifty Township, east of Columbus

Owner: Kathleen Hershey

Type of business: The nonprofit wildlife sanctuary rehabilitates native Indiana animals that become injured through coming into contact with humans or domestic animals.

Types of animals: Animals and birds that are treated at the facility include cottontail rabbits, songbirds, skunks, box turtles, squirrels, opossums, birds of prey, groundhogs, bats, waterfowl, and a limited number of foxes, raccoons and coyotes.

Animal treatment: Animals and birds treated at the facility are rehabilitated and released back to their original territories. They may stay at Utopia for 180 days or less.

Educational opportunities: The sanctuary also provides educational programs for children and adults, providing up-close experiences with animal ambassadors. The ambassadors are 15 permanently injured, non-releasable animals which stay at the facility under state and federal permits for educational purposes.

Hours: Utopia is not open to the public without an appointment. The facility does invite the public to the facility for special educational events and hosts educational events for students and children.

For more information: Call 812-546-6318 or visit utopiawildlife.org.

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Julie McClure is assistant managing editor of The Republic. She can be reached at jmcclure@therepublic.com or (812) 379-5631.