Whitby Wildlife Sanctuary caring for 14 orphaned fox cubs as numbers of rescued animals double

Another of the fox cubs. PIC: Richard Ponter
Another of the fox cubs. PIC: Richard Ponter

This year has been a busy one  so far for Whitby Wildlife Sanctuary as they care for 14 fox cubs, prepare to move to a larger site, and celebrate their 10th anniversary.

The number of cubs rescued this year is more than double what the sanctuary would expect to look after in a breeding season and almost all have been orphaned due to human activity.

Alex Farmer, founder of the sanctuary. PIC: Richard Ponter

Alex Farmer, founder of the sanctuary. PIC: Richard Ponter

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Alex Farmer, the founder of the sanctuary, said: “For us it’s an unusual amount, normally we have around six.

“It’s not just for foxes, but for all wildlife our figures have doubled.”

Habitat destruction is an ongoing concern for staff at the sanctuary.

A resident adult fox, one of six that lives at the sanctuary. PIC: Richard Ponter

A resident adult fox, one of six that lives at the sanctuary. PIC: Richard Ponter

Five of the cubs were rescued together having been abandoned by their mother at a very young age.

“Their den was completely obliterated by construction work,” Miss Farmer explained, “and when no mother returned we took them in.

“We’ve found there’s been an increase in housing being built and habitat being destroyed.

"There’s been an increase in homeless creatures that get themselves into trouble and have to be cared for.

One of the fox cubs at Whitby Wildlife Sanctuary. PIC: Richard Ponter

One of the fox cubs at Whitby Wildlife Sanctuary. PIC: Richard Ponter

“Where there’s housing being built, we need to bear in mind wildlife has to live alongside.”

As well as issues with habitat, several of the cubs’ mothers had been killed, a local vet confirmed by post mortem that one had been poisoned.

One of the young foxes had severely injured its legs on a barbed wire fence and another was hit by a car.

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Alex Farmer with a seagull chick being cared for at the sanctuary.

Alex Farmer with a seagull chick being cared for at the sanctuary.

The sanctuary generally finds out about animals in need of rescue from member of the public.

Miss Farmer added: “Lots of locals know about our work and we get calls from the whole of the North East now.”

The average stay for a creature in need of care is a month, though the cubs won’t be healed until the end of the summer.

Miss Farmer, who has lived in Whitby for 17 years, and her team make sure they remain completely wild.

“As soon as they’re able to eat and drink on their own we keep away from them. They have to look after themselves,” she explained.

They’re fed on a natural diet including rabbit, pheasant and pigeon to imitate what they will hunt when back in the wild.

Sometimes the team support feed animals for a short time after their release to ease them back into hunting for their own food.

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Miss Farmer has always had a love for British wildlife and began Whitby Wildlife Sanctuary when she was volunteering at a local vets.

She said: “The vets would get wild animals in that they couldn’t keep so I would look after them at my house until they were better.”

As the work increased, she eventually gave up her job as a primary school teacher to concentrate on the animals full time and now cares for 4,000 rescues a year, 80 per cent of which are birds.

Now in its 10th year, the sanctuary is gradually moving from a 0.4acre site to a new 3.3 acre piece of land which will allow for specialist outdoor enclosures to be built.

Miss Farmer explained people can make a difference to wildlife in simple ways such as providing water in their gardens, or installing a bird bath.

She added: “Wild animals were there before us and we need to keep an eye out for them.

“They need some support.”