When you think of foxes, you probably picture a fluffy animal with luxurious, beautiful fur. For some species and subspecies of fox, this can be an accurate image, but for foxes in temperate regions like ours, it only tends to apply during the cooler months. During warm seasons, both red and grey foxes shed so much fur that they are often mistaken for having mange.
A fox that is naturally molting, or shedding its fur, will usually have a layer of fairly short fur– the fox’s newer, cooler summer outfit– covering its entire body. In addition to this new fur, the fox will likely have clumps of long, shaggy fur– its old winter coat– still clinging to some areas, particularly the back and neck, which are hard for the fox to self-groom.
Of course, some foxes do have mange, a horribly itchy condition caused by microscopic mites burrowing in the skin. These animals are not only immensely suffering, but they can sometimes present a health hazard to pets and humans, so it’s important to report them to your local animal control, game wardens, or wildlife rehabilitators if you spot them.
A fox with true mange doesn’t have fur over all parts of its body. Instead, it will have entire patches where the fur is very thin or even completely absent. In severe cases, a fox with mange might even lose its fur entirely.
Aside from hair loss, distinct signs of mange include redness, scabbing, “sick” behavior (such as staggering and lethargy) and constant scratching.
If you do report a fox with mange, be sure to keep an eye out for any other mangy animals in the area. Some forms of mange are contagious not only between foxes, but also across species, and could infect neighborhood coyotes, raccoons, livestock, cats, and dogs. By reporting any additional sick animals you see, you can play a big role in helping prevent disease outbreaks in your area.