Catching and Handling of Vulpes vulpes - Red Fox (Wildlife Casualty Management)
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Summary Information
Type of technique Health & Management / UK Wildlife Casualty Management/ Techniques:
Synonyms and Keywords N.B. This information should be read in association with Wildlife Casualty Handling and Transport which contains background information together with links to the Electronic Library and Organisations (UK Contacts). The related Species pages contain similar linkages.
Description This page has been prepared for the "UK Wildlife: First Aid and Care" Wildpro module, and is designed for the needs of the following species: Vulpes vulpes - Red fox
  • Foxes are able to move quickly, jump well and climb surprisingly high obstacles.
  • Foxes will bite if cornered and care must be taken during catching and handling.


  • Ensure carrying cage is ready and open before starting to catch.
  • Minimum of two people if possible.
  • Try to ensure that all escape routes are blocked or covered.
  • Remember that a fox will bite in trying to escape.
  • With one person (out of sight) covering the escape route with a long handled net, the second person can approach the fox from the opposite direction, so it is herded towards the net. This is then brought down rapidly across the fox's path so that it runs into the net, which is then held firmly to the ground.
  • The second person, if also carrying a net, may be able to bring this down on the fox on its initial approach.
  • Alternatively, set up a "walk-towards" net (one metre wide, several meters long, similar in appearance to a tennis net) across the escape route and approach the fox so that it runs into the net.
  • Once in a net the fox may be pinned using a soft-headed broom across its neck before being scruffed.
  • (B151)
  • May be caught using a dog grasper, using just enough pressure to control the fox and pull it into a position where it can be scruffed (held by the loose skin - scruff - on the back of the neck).
    • Useful for e.g. if the fox is under a shed and otherwise unreachable. (B151)
    • Reduces the risk of being bitten. (B199)
  • May be possible to lure into a container such as a dark box or a clean sturdy plastic dustbin.
    • The open end may be partially covered with a cloth.
    • Herding towards the box with boards may assist, reducing the risk of the fox moving off to one side.
    • (B199, D25)


  • Remember that a fox will bite if at all possible. (B151)
  • Gauntlets may be advised for handling (D24) although these may interfere with the hold when scruffing. (B151, B199)
  • 1) Once caught in a net, pin the neck with a soft-headed broom, then grasp the scruff. The fox may then be lifted by the scruff, with the second hand supporting the rump, e.g. by holding fur over the rump.(B151)
  • 2) Once caught with a dog grasper and brought within reach, grasp the scruff. The dog grasper may be released once the scruff is held firmly. (B151, B199)
  • Lift into a suitable carrying cage (preferably with crush facility). (B151)
  • If caught in a net, scruff and lift with the net still in place. One in the cage, shut the lid, letting go of the fox at the last moment, then bring the net out through as small a gap as possible before fully closing and locking/bolting the lid. (B151)
  • Never pick a fox up by the tail. (B151)

Restraint for Examination and Treatment:

  • Restraint by the scruff may allow a brief examination.(D24)
  • A muzzle such as a bandage muzzle may facilitate a brief examination of a physically restrained fox. (D24, B151)
  • A squeeze cage may be useful, for example to allow intramuscular injection. (D24)
  • Sedation with diazepam 1mg/kg intravenous or intramuscular may be useful. (B151)
  • General anaesthesia is often required for thorough examination and treatment.

General Anaesthesia and Sedation:

General Information:

  • Combination of intramuscular medetomidine and ketamine is commonly used for general anaesthesia in small and zoo animal practice in the UK; extrapolation of dose rates for companion animals from the manufacturers recommendations may be appropriate. Manufacturer's recommendations for feline general anaesthesia include "[Medetomidine] Domitor [Pfizer Limited] should be administered at a rate of 80mcg/kg [intramuscular] with a concomitant dose of 2.5 - 7.5mg/kg [intramuscular] of Vetalar [Pharmacia and Upjohn Ltd.] or Ketaset [Fort Dodge Animal Health](ketamine)." (B202) In extrapolating dose rates a number of issues must be remembered:
    • higher dose rates may be required for very nervous / excited / agressive animals who may initially over-ride the effects of anaesthesia
    • smaller animals with a higher metabolic rate may require proportionally higher dose rates; the reverse is also usually true for larger animals
    • collapsed, shock and/or dehydrate animals may required lower dose rates
      (V.w6, V.w26)
    • Sometimes there may be a requirement for additional "top-up" doses of injectable anaesthetics (V.w6, V.w26) and the following should be considered:
      • ideally, if a mask can be applied without excessive stress on the animal, masking it down with either isoflurane or halothane is usually the best option.
      • it is not desirable to reach the situation where additional doses are being given in order to reach initial stable anaesthesia whilst the first drugs are wearing off. It is all too easy to overdose in this situation. If three injections are not effective - if possible, it is highly advisable to stop the procedure, allow the anaesthesia to wear off and then repeat the procedure at a later date using higher doses initially.
      • when increasing dosages, careful consideration should be given both the side-effects of the drugs and the availability of reversal agents
      • If an intravenous injection can be given, it may allow more control over the depth of anaesthesia
      • if a top-up dose is required, the following rule of thumb is recommended:
  1. If there is little effect on the animal after 15 minutes (it is alert and reponsive), give a second full dose
  2. If the animal is clearly affected but still active after 15 minutes, give a 3/4 dose.
  3. If there is some degree of anaethesia, but a deeper level is required, give 1/2 dose.
  4. Beyond that - use best judgement.

(V.w6, V.w26)

A variety of anaesthetic drugs and protocols have been used in this species. Suggested protocols for sedation and general anaesthesia include:

  • For general anaesthesia the following protocol has been used efficiently and safely:
    • Medetomidine (Domitor, Pfizer) 40 g/kg bodyweight plus ketamine 7.5 mg/kg bodyweight intramuscular. 
    • Intramuscular injection in a conscious animal may be given while it is being physically restrained by means of a crush cage or by remote injection e.g. blow-pipe.
    • Once administration has taken place the fox should be left in a quiet dark place to allow the drugs to take effect.
  • (V.w26, V.w6)
  • The effects of medetomidine are normally reversed by injection of the agent atipamezole, unless otherwise indicated. (V.w5, V.w6, V.w26)
  • Combination of ketamine with a sedative (e.g. benzodiazepine, alpha-2 agonist) is generally preferable to the use of ketamine alone. (V.w5, V.w6, V.w26)
  • Combination of ketamine with a benzodiazepine may be preferable to its combination with an alpha-2 agonist in sick or collapsed individuals because of the more limited cardiovascular depression associated with the former agent. (V.w5, V.w6, V.w26)
  • Isoflurane may be administered carefully by anaesthetic face mask in a collapsed animal.
  • Gaseous general anaesthetic agents (such as isoflurane) may be administered by mask to anaesthetise cubs.
  • Intubation is straightforward and recommended.
  • Isoflurane or halothane may be used to prolong [general] anaesthesia following the use of injectable anaesthetic agents. 
  • The length of starvation prior to induction of general anaesthesia should be appropriate for the species in question and the likelihood of regurgitation. Clinical judgement should be used as to the pros and cons of starvation in an emergency situation.
  • (V.w5, V.w6, V.w26)
Appropriate Use (?)
  • Catch only if necessary.
  • Handling of wild animals should be minimised.
  • Consider design of accommodation and timing of treatments to minimise requirements for capture and handling.
  • Consider whether physical or chemical restraint is more appropriate.
  • Never pick a fox up by the tail. (B151)
  • Foxes may bite when stressed. (D24)
  • Gauntlets may be useful for handling. (D24)
  • In some situations, particularly where an animal can be easily targeted, the use of darting techniques may greatly decrease the stress of capture when compared with physical capture combined with hand-injection. In using darting techniques, the following points must be remembered:
    • The size of needle, volume and viscosity of the fluid and the amount of power used to project the dart should be appropriate to the size of the muscle mass and thickness of the skin. The use of inappropriate equipment and materials can cause serious damage to the animal.
    • Darting should only be undertaken by experienced personnel holding the requisite UK firearms licence.
  • (V.w6)
Complications/ Limitations / Risk
  • Never pick a fox up by the tail. (B151)
  • Gauntlets may interfere with the hold when scruffing. (B151)
  • Sarcoptic mange may be caught from an affected fox if appropriate precautions such as wearing latex gloves are not taken during handling.
Equipment / Chemicals required and Suppliers
  • Dog grasper
  • Soft-headed broom
  • Boards if required for herding
  • Net, as appropriate
  • Squeeze cage
  • Gauntlets
  • Bandage for muzzling
  • Diazepam
Expertise level / Ease of Use
  • Experience is advantageous for the safe handling of foxes. Inexperienced persons should seek appropriate advice and assistance.
Cost/ Availability
  • Appropriate dog-catcher, nets, gauntlets, squeeze cage, may be available from specialist suppliers or veterinary suppliers; some of these items may be relatively expensive.
  • Boards, brooms and bandage for muzzling are widely available and inexpensive.
  • Some drugs used for chemical restraint are expensive.
  • Drugs used for chemical restraint may only be available to veterinary surgeons or other licensed persons.
Legal and Ethical Considerations
Author Debra Bourne
Referee Becki Lawson and Suzanne Boardman
References D24, B151, B199,V.w5, V.w6, V.w26

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