Kit foxes threatened by mange

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Kit foxes used to roam Downtown Bakersfield with a heavy population but, recently spotting a kit fox has become a rare occurrence
    
Experts say the kit fox population is now half of what it was four years ago. What’s threatening their lives? Mange. 

A few years ago, Bakersfield was a refuge for a growing population of endangered kit foxes 

“This mite had never affected, it had never been documented in kit foxes before six years ago, said Erica Kelly,” research ecologist with the Endangered Species Recovery Program in Bakersfield.

Kelly says that within the last six years they’ve had over 400 cases of mange reported.

The worst part, without intervention, mange is 100 percent fatal among kit foxes.

“Within three months of them suffering very horribly they will pass away,” said Kelly. “The body will build a crust all over the area, their hair will fall off, they’re itchy and so they’ll itch themselves and bite. We’ve had cases when they’ve bit all the way down to the bone.”

A few weeks ago we reported on two coyotes, seen roaming the streets of Downtown Bakersfield. The California Department of Fish and Wildlife confirmed it was infected with mange. It continues to research a possible connection.

“Domestic dogs are a potential source host, coyotes are a potential source host, red foxes are a potential source host,” said Jamie Rudd, environmental scientist with CDFW.

But, with no explanation on how mange was introduced to kit foxes in Bakersfield, ESRP continues to investigate the effects of the infection and how to better treat those infected. 

“If the population of kit foxes gets so low, it could destabilize the entirely of kit foxes in the region,” said Rudd.

If you happen to come across a sick kit fox call the endangered species recovery program at 835-7180.

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