Firefighting is a dangerous yet rewarding job. Daily, brave men and women put their lives on the line to save people. But it isn’t just people who are impacted by the commitment of firefighters. From time to time, firefighters save animals in danger, too. And that’s exactly what happened to a team of firefighters in Colorado in 2018.
On what seemed like another ordinary mission, the team wasn’t at all prepared for such a discovery and was ultimately left speechless. Like any other day in March, the Colorado Springs Fire Department (CSFD) received a call that turned out to be something out of the ordinary. The CSFD has had their share of odd situations and has dealt with pretty much every situation possible. Or so they thought…
With years of service behind them, the Colorado Springs Fire Department rescue team was prepared for any type of emergency, and, at this point, nothing surprised them. But when the phone rang on that March day, a woman informed the firefighters about animals that were trapped. And so, the CSFD took on their next mission.
They didn’t have any information about the situation other than the fact that some animals were trapped. So they did what they’re trained to do: they handled it like any other emergency situation. They headed into the truck, took to the road, and sprang into action. But once they reached the animals, they weren’t sure what to do.
This wasn’t the CSFD’s first time getting a call about animals in distress. Indeed, they have rescued puppies and kittens before, and they understood that each situation needs to be approached differently. Since the woman who made the call didn’t provide any information beyond the fact that there were animals in need of help, the team didn’t know what to expect.
They didn’t even know what kind of animals were in distress. As a result, they had to be cautious during the mission. Based on the call, they knew that the address was within the city’s limits. They had dealt with cats and dogs before, but this might be a whole other kind of animal.
As a firefighter, you come to expect the unexpected. Finding a wild animal hiding behind the bushes was a definite possibility. But they had to wait until they arrived to get a good picture. When they pulled up to the address, the firefighters arrived at a familiar situation. Once they heard the animals in distress, they saw where they were trapped.
They were inside a storm drain, which, unfortunately, is something that happens more often than one would like. The good thing was that the sun was shining bright and they didn’t have to deal with heavy rain or winds, which would only complicate things.
Not only would it complicate the rescue mission, but it would also frighten the animals. The team knew they could help the animals and get to the storm drain. But what animals were there? Although the weather was agreeable, the firefighters proceeded with caution. The storm drain was dark, so they could hardly see inside it.
But, regardless of what animals were in there, they were in a life-threatening situation. Still unable to identify the animals, the team figured they were small because they fit inside the small drain. And based on the tiny size of the drain, the firefighters were pretty sure that the animals trapped inside were newborns. But newborn, what?
Time wasn’t on their side (it never is), and so the firefighters had to act quickly. First, they had to ensure that the animals were safe by opening the grate covering the storm drain. That way, they could get a better look at what was inside. Typically, as per their experience in such situations, animals waiting to break free would peek their heads outside the drain when freed.
But, in this situation, it didn’t happen. The firefighters were right, though, about the animals being newborns since they were too small and frail to get themselves out of the drain. So all they could do was cry out for help.
But their cries for help didn’t help so much since the rescuers were still unaware of what lurked behind the drain. How did the newborns even end up in the drain, to begin with? It’s certainly possible that they were hiding from a much bigger and more threatening animal. However, it was less likely that they were delivered in the storm drain.
Why? Because cats and dogs rarely give birth in those conditions. The firefighters put all their effort into the mission to bring these animals to safety. They figured the animals were only a few hours or days old and that they needed to be with their mother. What happened to their mother?
At such a fragile age, these little ones shouldn’t be left fending for themselves. The team decided that to help the newborns, they would need to locate their mother, and they did everything possible to find her. After searching for a while, they concluded that she wasn’t in the vicinity and that the newborns had most likely been abandoned.
Life-threatening situations are nothing new to rescue workers, but, on this day, the firefighters were heartbroken by the possibility that the little ones were left to fend for themselves in a storm drain. Anyone with a heart, firefighter or not, would be heartbroken by such a scenario. Heck, you’re reading this now because you are too!
Because of the emotions invested in this mission, the rescuers were determined to save them and wouldn’t give up. It turns out the mission they thought would be simple was anything but. No one knew if the mother had abandoned them, if she had gone out searching for food, or if she had been killed by another animal.
It was also possible that the mother was somewhere nearby and planned to come back to her babies, which meant that if they removed them, then there would be no chance of reuniting them. The clock was ticking. Something had to be done – a decision had to be made about the fate of these little animals.
The team couldn’t leave them there for much longer. And since they didn’t know exactly what they were, they couldn’t really provide the care they needed. After all, every animal has different needs. Were they domesticated or wild? If domesticated, they needed assistance immediately. If wild, then perhaps it was better to leave them be.
For wild animals, learning to take care of themselves comes naturally. Unless, of course, they were in imminent danger. After a closer look, the firefighters were prepared for the next step. After getting as close as possible to the drain, they thought the creatures were puppies. But, even if they were, they didn’t understand how they got there in the first place.
Despite all their years on the force, the team wasn’t prepared to find these creatures inside a storm drain and were left wondering how they got there. The team decided to further investigate the story, and they knew where to find answers. Their best guess was that the homeowner was responsible for this situation, but before jumping to any conclusions, they needed evidence.
To gather information, they went back to the beginning – to the woman who called them for help. She told the dispatcher that she wasn’t aware that the pups had been left by anyone. This left the team with many unanswered questions. The Captain of the CSFD, Brian Vaughan, sat down with Inside Edition.
He spoke about the rescue mission and said it took 20 minutes to save the animals. He also said they figured the animals’ fate was a result of “dog dumping.” The most important thing for them was to make sure the animals were healthy and safe. After rescuing them, there wasn’t much more they could do.
Only licensed animal experts could give them the care they needed since the mother was nowhere to be found. But, although it seemed as though the mission was over, the story wasn’t. Once they handed the pups over to the animal experts, the firefighters received some new information – news they never expected.
Although it was a sunny day when the puppies were rescued, they had been hiding in a wet, cold drain for quite a while. As a result, they were freezing and, considering how young they were, seriously affected by the cold conditions; it was essential to keep them warm. In the end, the puppies did most of the work themselves.
Their instincts took over, and they managed to keep their body temperatures up by snuggling together. The team concluded that these were puppies, but they were having trouble figuring out which breed of dog they really were. They never claimed to be experts in the field of animal breeds, so they left it to the professionals to make conclusions.
Still not sure of the breed, the firefighters thought they were black Labrador puppies, but they were about to learn just how far off they were. The Humane Society of the Pikes Region took over. When the pups were handed over, one of the firefighters left his number, too, just in case there was any new information.
The Humane Society’s domain was domestic pets, including cats, dogs, chickens, rats, and pigs. That said, the firefighters were sure they were in good hands. The rescue team was, after all, invested in the animals and genuinely curious about not only the breed but if they would end up okay.
As time passed, it became clear that The Humane Society wasn’t equipped to take care of these animals as they didn’t fit into any of the domesticated animal categories. So, then, what animals had the firefighters rescued? It’s good the firefighter left his phone number with the Humane Society because they received a phone call.
Knowing the call was coming from The Humane Society, the team was expecting the worst. They figured since the puppies had been in poor condition when they handed them over that they were going to be told that they didn’t make it. So they were worried when they picked up the phone that day. But the puppies were alive and…
The news from The Humane Society wasn’t bad at all, but it was, nonetheless, nothing the firefighters anticipated hearing. The animals were, indeed, being taken care of, but the vet wanted to share the developing news. The so-called Labrador puppies weren’t Labradors at all. In fact, they weren’t even puppies.
The eight “puppies” were actually newborn red fox kits! When you think about it, it’s an easy mistake considering how similar they look! Newborn foxes look very similar to puppies when they’re young. But since foxes weren’t under the jurisdiction of The Humane Society of the Pikes Region, there wasn’t much that could be done there. They needed to be relocated.
The Humane Society isn’t licensed to care for wildlife, so they had no choice but to relocate the kits. They ended up referring them to licensed wildlife rehabilitators once the vet at Powers Pet Emergency and Specialty ultimately concluded that the puppies were indeed foxes.
The Animal Clinic of Woodland Park was the agency that was finally given the fox kits. Terri Collins, the co-owner of the agency, determined that the kits were only 24 to 48 hours old. Most of them had yet to even open their eyes. The tiny, little foxes sure had quite the experience, thrown between places. At least they were finally in the care of the right people.
The Animal Clinic of Woodland Park became their new home. But it wouldn’t be for long as they were, once again, meant to be somewhere else. Not long after the foxes were taken to The Animal Clinic of Woodland Park, Collins posted their photo on Facebook, asking the public to try and guess their species.
It turns out that Facebook users were just as perplexed as the firefighters were. With plenty of time to try and figure it out, Collins eventually revealed the answer: “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 for hours, but so far, so good.”
It was surprising to learn of the discovered foxes, considering they were found in a city area. But Travis Sauder, the wildlife manager of the Colorado Parks and Wildlife District, cleared up the confusion. He revealed that it’s not that uncommon. Sauder told CBS Denver: “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.”
Not only did the mission give the firefighting team an experience to laugh and talk about for years to come, but they were also fortunate to have been involved. Before that mission, they had never rescued wild animals.
Terri Collins spent her time caring for the newborn foxes, but she knew that they would eventually have to be returned to the wild. She felt bad about leaving them, but the circumstances were out of her control. And still, their mother couldn’t be located. Both Collins and Sauder were on the same page when it came to the future of these foxes.
Before they could return to the wild, they needed to be reunited with their mother. “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 as she would. If the mom’s not around anymore, we can take them to a licensed rehab,” Sauder said.
Sadly, the foxes’ mother was never located. This meant that people had to mother them instead. And so, the foxes were given the best care at a licensed rehab center. They were eventually released into the wild again. Many people were thanked for the foxes’ wellbeing.
Along the way, the people involved in the mission learned a lot from the experience. Whether you’re one person or an organization, you too can have an impact on the wellbeing of wildlife. You don’t have to be an expert in rescuing animals and providing them with the care they need! Let’s hope these red foxes are scurrying around somewhere in a forest!
Next is a story about another surprising adventure involving a fox, but this time it wasn’t in a city. Rather, it was on an iceberg of all places!