Firefighters all over the country are trained experts at protecting people and homes from the damage of fires, natural disasters and other unforeseen circumstances. But they’re also able to get animals out of tough spots, too. Firefighters are frequently called to rescue animals from places they shouldn’t be, like homes, sewer drains and construction sites.
When the Colorado Springs Fire Department received a call about some animal sounds in a storm drain, they thought they knew what to expect, but they soon realized they had no idea what they were dealing with when the veterinarian at the scene said that they weren’t trained to deal with what they found.
They Were a Trained Team
The Colorado Springs Fire Department was well trained at fighting fires and helping civilians in tricky situations, so they weren’t afraid of any strange request from people in need. They never expected that when they answered the phone from one woman with a problem, they would be sent on a mission that would take weeks to come to a close.
There Was No Problem They Could Not Solve
Every day, the fire department in Colorado answered requests to make many people’s lives just a little bit safer, and they usually did so with ease. They had even had a few strange requests in the past, like saving a turtle from a burning apartment building, so they knew that there wasn’t anything that was too strange for them to handle, or so they thought.
Her Request Seemed Normal
In March of 2018, the fire department received a call from a woman who was concerned about animal noises in a nearby storm drain. The team didn’t have to think twice about helping her with the problem, so a few of the men at the station got prepared to rescue what was likely to be a few kittens and they headed on their way.
They Laughed in the Face of Danger
Just a few months prior, the fire department received a call about a burning apartment building from one of its residents. The resident had gotten out safely, but their animals were still stuck inside. Luckily the team was able to make it to the site quickly, and the story ended up being some of their proudest work.
They Knew How to Save All Kinds of Animals
During the 2016 apartment fire, the team was able to get into the blazing building to rescue the animals that were locked in their rooms, and they were able to do so without missing a single animal. After all was said and done, they successfully rescued a dog, a turtle, two cats and seven goldfish. Their owners were extremely happy that none of their animals were harmed that day, but would the creatures in the storm drain be so lucky?
They Were a Team That Could Be Trusted
After another call, the team was able to rescue a cat that had gotten trapped underneath a manhole cover, so everyone in town knew that their fire department could be trusted to save the day if an animal ever found itself out of its safety zone. That is the main reason why the woman called about the noises in the storm drain, she really trusted the team and their work.
They Found the Animals’ Location
The noises coming from the storm drain sounded like puppies, but the puppies were probably very young. The space beneath the grate was very small, so they must have been put there to keep them out of the way of danger, or keep them hidden from anyone who might be looking for them. No matter why they were in the drain, it was now the fire department’s job to get them out.
The Litter Was Underground
After removing the drain cover, the team took a good look at what they were dealing with. It was evident that there were nearly a dozen young pups that needed a safe home shielding themselves from the cold beneath the city streets. Although the team had seen situations like this before, the sight of the helpless animals in need still broke their hearts.
The Weather Was Brutal
The brisk weather in March wasn’t too cold for people who had a safe home to stay in, but at night, the air could reach freezing temperatures, making it hard for even full grown animals to survive. The fire department team knew that they didn’t have much time to save the pups before the bitter cold would make their survival impossible in the storm drain.
No One Knew How They Got There
The question on everyone’s mind was still, ‘how did these puppies get in the drain in the first place?’ Dogs typically do not choose to give birth in small, cramped spaces like the storm drain, so the team wondered if the puppies were put under there by a human. But this question would take a while to answer, and the woman who made the call couldn’t give them any clues.
Their Origin Was Still a Mystery
After some questioning, the fire department team learned from the woman who made the call that there weren’t any people around the storm drain when the animal noises started, so they seemed to be able to rule out the possibility that the puppies had been dumped there by a malicious person who was trying to get rid of them. Their main focus now was to make sure they got out safely and found good homes after visiting a veterinarian.
They May Have Been At Risk of Drowning in the Drain
Rescuing an animal from a small space is more difficult than it may sound, and that’s why it’s best to call an expert before trying to rescue an animal yourself. These pups were stuck beneath a storm drain, so the team needed to make sure that they weren’t at risk of drowning before removing them, and make sure that they knew where they’d be taking the animals after they were secured. So, they called a local veterinarian and told them that they’d be on their way soon.
They Were Able to Reach Each of the Puppies
The rescue mission thankfully went just as planned. One of the firefighters was able to open the drain easily and carefully pick up each of the puppies one by one, and there were more there than they originally planned for. The dark puppies were very small and hadn’t yet opened their eyes, so the firefighter had to assume that they had just been born.
There Were More Than They Could See
The puppies didn’t seem afraid of the firefighter, in fact, they seemed very thankful to be put on a warm blanket. And when the firefighter looked over at them, he noticed that they were doing something that was their natural instinct to do, which made the man know that these animals were going to survive and be okay.
They Huddled Together For Warmth
When the firefighter looked over at the white blanket, he saw that the puppies were huddling together for warmth, which is exactly what they should be doing to stay alive. Each of the pups was wriggling about and seemed very healthy, so they would all be able to make it to the vet without any worries. But the team still didn’t know exactly how many animals they had left to rescue.
There Was No Sign of Their Mother
The natural instincts of the dogs to huddle together for warmth was important, because as long as the group’s mother wasn’t around, they needed to rely on each other for their survival. The team wondered where the mother would have gone, because it isn’t normal for a mama dog to leave her young this soon after the birthing process. So, some of the fire department team looked in the area for any signs of a grown dog.
The Storm Drain Was An Unusual Place to Give Birth
Most dogs look for warm and safe areas to give birth in, so finding the puppies in the damp and cold storm drain was a very unusual sight. Also considering that there were alleyways and porches in the neighborhood that a dog could easily access, the team wondered how exactly the newborn puppies got into the storm drain to begin with.
The Dogs Started Acting Strangely
The behavior of the puppies themselves was also slightly unusual. The young dogs were very playful and wouldn’t stop moving around, so the team had difficulty accurately counting the group. They also worried that the dogs’ mother had been harmed because it is very unusual for a mom to leave her litter so soon after they are born.
There Were Eight Total Puppies
Every time the firefighter set down another pup, the group huddled together with their sibling for warmth. After a headcount, the team could see eight puppies in total, so they informed the vet about the litter and started to gather them up to transport them to the animal shelter.
They Thought They Were Black Labs
After checking their appearances, the team guessed that the puppies were probably Black Labradors. Their dark coats and closed eyes meant that the dogs were probably between 24 and 48 hours old, so they needed immediate care to grow. Sadly, this meant that the group could not stick around to see if the mother would return, but they focused on the survival of the dogs that were in their care first.
They Delivered the Litter to a Trained Vet
The next stop for the puppies was the local Humane Society in the Pikes Peak Region. This location had veterinarians that were trained to deal with many domesticated animals, such as dogs, cats, chickens, horses and turtles, so the fire department team knew that the dogs would be in good hands. So, they left their number with the doctor to get updates about the dogs and they left to get on with their next call.
There Were No Signs of Where the Puppies Came From
While out on their call, the team once again wondered if the puppies would be okay, They all seemed perfectly healthy when they were rescued, but it was a very odd situation for a dog rescue. If there had been a mother dog in the area, someone surely would have seen the grown dog recently, but the neighborhood had no clues about where the puppies could have come from.
The Vet Couldn’t Work on the Litter
When the fire department got a call from the veterinarian later that day, they were very surprised with the news. The vet said that they couldn’t work on these animals, because they were wild. The team was completely unsure about what the doctor meant, surely these dogs could be rehabilitated and adopted by new owners, but they soon learned that this would not be possible.
They Weren’t Dogs At All
The reason that the vet couldn’t work on the wild animals was because they weren’t actually dogs. Although the pups looked just like newborn Labradors, they were actual newborn foxes. These wild Red Foxes had a darker coat than usual when they were first born, but they were completely wild and needed to be transported to a different pet hospital to be adequately taken care of.
Their Dark Coat Would Soon Be Shed
The reason that the fire department didn’t know that the animals were foxes was because of their dark coats. Baby foxes will shed their dark coats after a few weeks and grow red fur and teeth, so they more resemble their species. The fire department had no idea about this process, which is why they quickly assumed that the animals were puppies. So, the group had to be taken to a different location to be treated.
They Were Taken to a Rehabilitation Center for Wildlife
The litter was still happy and healthy on their way to the Animal Clinic of Woodland Park, where they would be rehabilitated and later released back into the wild. To learn more about the baby foxes’ situation, some of the experts at the clinic returned to the site where they were found to look for more answers, and to see if they could spot the mother fox that recently gave birth to the litter.
Foxes Were Common to the Area
It wasn’t odd to find foxes in this area of Colorado. The Rocky Mountain landscape of the area is the Red Foxes’ natural habitat, but they usually leave homes and communities alone if they can help it. The mother fox must have been in a pretty tricky situation to decide to give birth in the storm drain, but the veterinarian knew that this was also part of its natural instincts.
The Birth Site Made More Sense
Foxes are more prone to giving birth in small, cramped spaces, so they can give adequate warmth to their litter after they are born. But it is unusual for the mother fox to leave her litter alone in the first week after they are born, so the veterinary team knew that something must have gone wrong during the birthing process for her to leave her kits unattended.
Their Odd Behavior Now Made More Sense
The fact that the animals were foxes also explained their strange behavior right after they were born. Foxes grow up and leave their families sooner than other animals, like dogs, so they grow very quickly and become independent just as quickly. But the best way to make sure of the breed of an animal is always by taking it to a trained expert, like a veterinarian.
The Animals Couldn’t be Adopted
Because the animals weren’t dogs, there wasn’t a possibility of anyone adopting the young ones or taking them home. The woman who made the call was informed about the litter of foxes, and she was shocked to find out that they had been wild animals all along. But it was good for the whole neighborhood to be informed about the foxes, so they could keep a look out for litters in the future.
It Takes a Trained Eye to Identify Animals
Foxes aren’t the only animals that resemble other animals at the moment of birth. Baby bears, wolves and foxes can resemble puppies to the untrained eye. This is why its always best to call a trained animal rescue team, fire department or wildlife center to take care of abandoned animals, and why it’s important not to disturb a nest found in the wild. And the rescue team had more advice for people who stumble upon wild animals…
You Shouldn’t Disturb Wild Nests
Terri Collins, the co-owner of the Animal Clinic where the foxes were taken, is an experienced animal caregiver, and she knew that the foxes probably would not be reunited with their mother because the nest had been disturbed. She used the news coverage of the litter’s rescue as an opportunity to tell locals not to disrupt new nests or try to rescue these animals yourself, because it could cause harm to the animals.
Leave Wild Nests Alone for 48 Hours
Collins gave some advice on a news broadcast for anyone who finds a litter of animals without a mother present. “She’ll come back if you don’t disrupt the nest,” said Terri Collins, a veterinary technician. “If you find it, then cover it back up and then keep everybody out of the yard for 24 to 48 hours, she’ll come back.”
Dens Are Common to Find in Parks
The Wildlife Manager of Colorado Parks and Wildlife District, Travis Sauder, had some advice for anyone who notices a newborn litter in a park or other public area. “This time of year there are a lot of animals that are starting to have their young, and they have them in small dens that are places that we can encounter when we’re recreating in the outdoors like we like to do,” Sauder told CBS Denver.
Abandoned Animals Can Be Taken to Rehab Centers
“These animals are going to be put back where we found them hoping that the mother is still in the area and can pick up the normal duties like she would. If the mom’s not around anymore we can take them to a licensed rehab,” Sauder told CBS Denver. This advice is exactly what the fire department decided was the best plan to follow, and the litter later traveled to a local wildlife rehabilitation center.
They Had to Be Fed Every Four Hours
The clinic gave their all to rehabilitating the group of baby foxes so they could one day return to the wild. They updated their Facebook status the day after the litter was found, writing, “So yes, a litter of eight red fox kits was found in Colorado Springs and brought up to our great rehabber. Terri is losing sleep feeding them [every] 4hours, but so far, so good.”
They Were Returned Back to the Wild
After the rehabilitation process ended, the baby foxes were grown enough to return back to the wild and begin their lives anew. The team had high hopes for the animals, because they were all healthy, but they knew that there could be difficulties for some of them because they may have gotten used to being fed by humans. The clinic also hoped that they may be reunited with their mother again.
Some of the Foxes Had to Return to Doctors’ Care
Sadly, after monitoring the progress of the young foxes in the wild, the rehabilitation team decided to step in again and bring five of the foxes back to the center for further services. The young foxes hadn’t been able to acclimate to the conditions of the wild, so they needed human care in order to survive, which is why its always a tough decision to take young animals from their nest.
They Weren’t Reunited With Their Mom
Unfortunately, the foxes also weren’t able to reunite with their birth mother in the wild. There weren’t any signs of the mother in the area according to residents, and the rehabilitation team weren’t able to locate her either. While that may seem like a sad end to their story, what’s important is that all of the foxes are still healthy, which may not have been the case if they weren’t rescued by the fire department.
They Grew Very Quickly
Foxes grow up much more quickly than other animals, so it wasn’t long before the foxes would have left their mother and lived on their own anyways. Now that the foxes were in the care of trained wildlife experts, they could be monitored and kept with other foxes to grow up in captivity because living in the wild was no longer an option.
They Were Able to Roam Freely
The foxes were later taken to a facility where they could be adequately cared for without worry that they would be harmed in a wild habitat. Much like a zoo, in this area they can be fed and taken care of by people while also having plenty of time to explore nature and socialize with other foxes.
This Rescue Story Had a Good End
All in all, this story was a pretty lucky one. If the woman who called the fire department hadn’t done so, the foxes might have frozen without the warmth of their mother. And if the fire department had let the foxes get adopted, they might have really caused some surprises down the road when their families figured out that they were foxes. That’s why it’s always best to get animal experts’ opinions on their wellbeing before anything rescue attempts are made.