The red fox in the Old Port Basin that was the object of several unsuccessful rescue efforts by Sauvetage Animal Rescue appears to be in no danger or distress — and the situation did not justify human intervention, the Ministère des Forêts, de la Faune et des Parcs said Wednesday in a statement.
Wildlife protection officers who visited the site on Tuesday asked the organization to stop its attempts to remove the animal from the area and to “let nature take its course.” The organization complied and ended its operation.
The fox, which had eluded repeated efforts at capture last weekend by Sauvetage Animal Rescue, has found a space to shelter beneath the King Edward Pier and has enough to eat — probably rodents and small birds — and to drink.
“Foxes are independent and autonomous,” ministry biologist Jean Sébastien Messier, responsible for fur animals in the Eastern Townships, Laval, Montreal and the Montérégie regions, said on Wednesday. “The animal is not in danger. It has all the means at its disposal to move, whether by walking or swimming.”
Aside from the fact that the nets and cage used by the rescue organization to try to capture the fox were ineffective, “chasing an animal only increases its stress,” he said.
“The fox was where it had chosen to be — and had the capacity to get there and to leave as it sees fit.”
The fox “is a wild animal — and it is not because it is a wild animal in an urban environment that it needs to be rescued,” said David Rodrigue, executive director of the Ecomuseum Zoo in Ste-Anne-de-Bellevue. “There are times when wildlife doesn’t need help.
“From what I could tell and knowing what foxes are like, it is quite natural for them to use ice bridges in winter and natural for them to get cut off or be stuck. They can swim very well.”
The fox probably has several hiding places in addition to the one beneath King Edward Pier and, if necessary, “will find another one,” Messier said. “It knows every corner of its environment well and can adapt and choose where to be. It does not need to be rescued. It just needs to be left alone to go about its regular activities.”
In addition, the Sauvetage Animal Rescue intervention did not conform with the law, said Raphaël Limet, a spokesperson for the wildlife protection service for St-Jean-sur-Richelieu and Valleyfield. To capture a wild animal, a permit is needed — and it was determined the organization had neither requested nor been issued such a permit.
A place like the Old Port is a reasonable urban environment for a fox, Messier said. “What is different in this case is that it was observed.”
For Louis Lazure, a doctoral student in biology at Concordia University and research co-ordinator of the Granby Zoo, “the tolerance of the presence of the animal is the first option.”
Unlike domesticated animals, who rely on their owners for survival, wild animals are independent and autonomous, the ministry said: A fox is a cunning, crafty and clever animal that adapts quickly to its environment and is a strong swimmer even in cold water — and the current in the water between the King Edward Pier and Dieppe Park, a nearby park at the tip of Cité du Havre from where the fox had probably come, is in the fox’s favour.
Rodrigue of the Ecomuseum suggested the fox might have a litter — or else feels comfortable where it is and wants to stay there. Even if all the ice was gone, it could cross to Dieppe Park.
To be stressed the way the fox was by the repeated rescue efforts “and still not leave, I’m thinking that something is keeping it there.”
Sauvetage Animal Rescue said in a post on its Facebook page on Tuesday that, as the ice melts, however, the fox will no longer be able to reach its sheltering place and that its cubs, if there are any, will be left on their own. “Regrettably,” it said, “the department’s vision is rather limited and does not consider the possibility of little ones.”
Most likely, if the fox has had a litter, it is judging that it can raise the cubs, Rodrigue said. Yet sometimes, even in the wild, animals try to raise a litter at the wrong time or place and the babies do not survive, he said: That’s part of what natural selection is about. “And it is unfortunate that it happens, but it happens.”
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