With its piercing eyes and steady breathing, the wily fox kept its cool while help was summoned to rescue the stricken animal before it wasted away. In an emergency alert to the RSPCA, a worried caller described how the fox had not moved and was losing weight. Only when frontline rescuers rushed to save the animal did they discover the reason for its sedentary lifestyle – it was a piece of antique taxidermy.
Rather than tell anyone to get stuffed for raising a false alarm, the RSPCA says it always welcomes calls if there are genuine concerns about animals in distress.
RSPCA Inspector Ellie Burt headed to Farm Hill in Exeter, Devon, earlier this week when a worried resident called the animal welfare charity over her concerns for the fox.
Inspector Burt explained: “The fox was described as lethargic and collapsed in the undergrowth. The caller said it had been losing weight in recent weeks and hadn’t moved for the past few days.
“We asked them to try the broom test – to ensure the fox was still alive – and were told that it didn’t move but tracked them with its eyes and seemed to be breathing well.”
At the scene, Inspector Burt quickly realised that someone had been playing a cunning prank.
She explained: “As soon as I arrived I realised that this wasn’t a live fox but a dead fox who’d been stuffed by a taxidermist.
“He’d clearly been placed under a bush outside of the houses as a prank. After speaking to some of the neighbours, I soon discovered that someone had been moving it around the neighbourhood.”
The mounted fox was put out of harm’s way, but the animal welfare charity regularly finds these inquisitive wild animals getting themselves into sticky predicaments.
Last week one of its officers had to save a vixen after she got her head wedged in a plastic tub.
Worried callers raised the alarm after hearing strange noises outside their home in Mexborough, near Doncaster, only to find the fox stumbling around with the container fixed fast.
Inspector Sandra Dransfield explained: “The callers could hear something knocking outside their house and opened the door to see the fox thrashing around with the tub on her head.
“The plastic container looked like the tubs you can buy supplement powder or protein powder in. We used bolt cutters, scissors and a knife to very carefully cut the opening of the container and prise it off the fox’s head.
“Thankfully, the fox wasn’t at all injured and was otherwise in really good condition so we released her there and then so she could head back to her den.”
The RSPCA recently revealed some of its most outrageous call-outs to brighten up the nation’s mood on Blue Monday, with accounts of how its rescue teams had been dispatched to deal with a menagerie of plastic swans, toy dogs and fur hats by callers who, perhaps, should have gone to a certain high street chain of opticians.
Assistant director of the RSPCA Inspectorate Dermot Murphy asked callers to stop and think before dialling the emergency line.
He explained: “When you’re working with animals, you expect the unexpected – but some of the calls we get are downright bizarre.
“And while it can be a bit of light relief in a generally tough and emotional job, there’s a serious message here, too.
“The RSPCA is under increasing pressure and we’re facing more calls each year. We appreciate that most people mean well but we would urge callers to stop and think before asking us for help.
“While we’d like to be able to help everyone, we simply haven’t got the staff to personally investigate each and every issue that the public brings to us. We must prioritise to make sure we get to the animals most in need.”
* Anyone who spots an animal in distress should report it to the RSPCA’s 24-hour emergency line by calling 0300 1234 999,