A fox on Tekakwitha Island that Kahnawake Animal Control Services (ACS) had sought to catch and treat for mange last month has been found dead.
It is one of two deceased foxes with mange that have been recovered in the community since July 30. The other was found in the South Creek Road area.
Meanwhile, three other foxes with mange have been identified in Kahnawake. The condition - a skin infection of parasitic mites causing loss of fur and other symptoms - is highly contagious and can be transmitted to other animals, including humans.
“It’s very upsetting,” said animal control officer Brandi Rice. “I mean, it bothers me, obviously. I wish I could do something about it more than I am.”
The recovered foxes’ cause of death is currently unknown, but mange could be implicated. Foxes can live up to six months with the condition before their bodies are too deteriorated to continue vital activities like hunting, according to Rice. Mange can also make them more susceptible to infection.
“Sounds like it’s spreading and killing them,” said pet store owner and groomer Catherine Diabo, who had seen the Tekakwitha Island fox when it was alive.
“It’s so sad.”
Because mange is fully treatable, ACS is still trying to catch and help the affected foxes. However, as the Tekakwitha Island fox showed, the traps may not be effective.
“I can’t go trap them because they’re too smart,” said Rice. “If I bring in outside people, it’s still the same thing. They can’t do anything as well.”
Instead, ACS plans to catch the foxes with a net once the mange has made them slow enough to approach. Rice said the outside organizations she consulted said to wait until the right moment.
“When I get there, I’ll be able to see what I can do,” said Rice. “The other trap is not going to help at all. It’s basically a hands-on kind of thing.”
The foxes that died are being tested for distemper and rabies, but the results could take weeks. To date, there has been no behavioural evidence that the affected foxes are rabid.
Nevertheless, Kahnawa’kehró:non are advised to stay away from the foxes as a precaution and because of the transmissibility of mange. “Don’t bother them. Don’t feed them. Stay away,” said Rice.
Kahnawa’kehró:non are encouraged to ensure their pets’ vaccinations are up to date, with a vaccine clinic being offered by appointment on September 11.
While research on the connection between climate change and mange is minimal, according to Marina Gosselin, environmental projects coordinator for climate change at the Kahnawake Environment PRotection Office (KEPO), climate can be a factor.
Due to causing a loss of fur, mange is more fatal in colder areas, she said. At the same time, this means it may spread more easily in warmer areas since animals that live longer have more time to spread the condition.
“Unfortunately, there is very little information available that links climate change and mange, which is not to say there is no link, simply that we currently don’t have enough research done on this,” Gosselin said.
Marcus Bankuti, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Eastern Door