Rescuers spend 270 minutes rescuing orphaned fox cubs underground

Volunteer rescuers have spent four and a half hours trying to rescue 3 fox cubs in a den in a hedgerow at Dallington near Heathfield, East Sussex yesterday (Saturday 9th April 2011).

A horse rider called in East Sussex Wildlife Rescue and Ambulance Service (WRAS) after finding a baby fox cub wandering around a narrow lane. She placed the cub back into the nearby den where she saw another cub which was calling. Close by the horse rider then noticed a dead fox and grew concerned for the cubs' welfare. East Sussex WRAS attended onsite and checked the dead fox to find it was a lactating vixen which had been dead for about 24 – 48 hours and probably a road casualty.

Rescuers could hear the cubs calling underground in a den at the side of the road. "It was a difficult and frustrating rescue" stated WRAS founder and rescuer Trevor Weeks," the bank at the side of the road was steep and we kept slipping, the entrance tunnel also turned 90 degrees to where the cubs were, making it difficult to reach them. We used our camera to take photos so we could establish where they were and the layout of the tunnel as we couldn't see round the corner of the tunnel. We also found two dead cubs in the tunnel. We had no choice but to use a spade to widen the entrance hole so we could get closer to them and reach round the corner."

Alan Knight OBE from International Animal Rescue attended on site to bringing a spade and vital life-saving fluids to help save the cubs. Trevor was able to widen the hole wide enough for rescuer Kathy to fit inside so she could reach round the bend to get to the cubs. She was able to reach the first about 6.20pm, but the others moved further down the tunnel, making it impossible to get to them, so volunteers had to back off.

Volunteers Debbie and Sam Johnson arrived to take the first cub away for care and to get much need food into them, allowing Trevor and Kathy to concentrate on the rescue of the remaining orphaned cubs. After a short break rescuers returned to the hole to find the cubs had moved closer to the entrance again. "The dead ones were clearly starving and had not eaten anything for a while before dying" said Trevor Weeks.

"As I squeezed into the hole one of the cubs came towards me, I think she thought I was mum returning. Despite the lack of space and lack of room to move easily I was able to grab cub number 2. However I was so far in the hole Trevor had to help by pulling my legs to get me out! I am now covered in bruises and scratches as a result so I won't be wearing any summer dresses for a while!" said WRAS rescuer Kathy Martyn.

To the rescuers' surprise they noticed that there was a third cub, and after further contortions by Kathy she amazingly managed to scruff the 3rd cub. By now it was 9.30pm and pitch black.

"This was an amazing rescue, which we really thought was going to end badly. There is no way I was going to fit down the hole, and I was glad for rescuers Sam and Kathy who were much slimmer than me, I will definitely have to go on a diet. The orphans were all dehydrated, underweight and starving hungry. There is no way they would have lasted another 24 hours, dying a horrible slow death. There was no way we were going to sleep that evening knowing the cubs were there and could be dead by the morning. The three cubs are now being looked after by Debbie Johnson and we hope they will all make a full recovery and eventually be released back into the wild. " said Trevor Weeks.

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Press Contact: Trevor Weeks, Director, East Sussex WRAS, 07931 523958

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