Fox found severely burned after ‘controlled burn’ in Holland

Posted at 11:54 AM, Apr 18, 2016
and last updated 2016-04-18 18:22:10-04

HOLLAND, Mich. - A fox that was severely burned during a controlled burn last week has been euthanized. Now disturbing pictures of this fox helped enact change within the agency managing the prescribed burns in the future.

Nick Clark found the fox Saturday morning at Windmill Island and contacted FOX 17 News.  The Outdoor Discovery Center held a controlled burn on Friday at the Macatawa Marsh that surrounds Windmill Island to eliminate invasive species.

“You don’t want to believe what you’re seeing almost because it was such bad shape. I’ve never personally seen an animal in that bad of shape before, so it was pretty eye-opening," said Clark.

The fox was euthanized over the weekend due to the severity of the injuries that it suffered. The Mapleview Animal Hospital doctor who euthanized the fox told FOX 17 she was about one-year-old, had severe burns in her nose, mouth, and corneas, and showed no signs of nursing.

Photo from Nick Clark

The Outdoor Discovery Center Program Director Jamie Krupka told FOX 17 their agency has not seen an animal burned badly like this after their prescribed burns, and said they work to avoid it.

“We’ve done this for 16 years, and I’ll say it’s very likely an anomaly versus the norm," said Krupka.

During the burn on Friday, Krupka said the crew took an additional 45 minutes to work around a single goose nest that they identified: they burned around a 20-foot radius of the nest.

Krupka said "there isn't a great season" for a controlled burn, but "spring is the best" as they work to preserve an entire ecosystem.

“There is going to be a loss of life," he said. "You’ve got to think of it as a holistic approach versus an individual approach. If we are trying to preserve this habitat, and make the most healthy vibrant community for all the animals and plants that live there, some of that does involve a management that includes a fire. If that fire in turn causes an animal to not be alive, a plant, that is maybe a necessary evil; certainly not our target, not our focus.”

However, Pam DeCuypere, animal expert with Circle D Wildlife Refuge, told FOX 17 spring is the "worst time" for these burns because spring is when babies are born for animals including possums, raccoons, and foxes. She said no matter when prescribed burns take place, there will be loss of life.

Clark still calls for change, whether it be asking volunteers to help crew search areas before prescribed burns, or provide a contact list in case an animal is injured. Clark said it took him about an hour to locate services to help the fox on Saturday, leading to the police calling animal control.

“Hopefully [we can] reduce these things from happening again in the future by providing the proper resources, having the right people involved, spreading the word wherever necessary, because I think at the end of the day most people are on the same page in thinking we’re not here to hurt wildlife," said Clark.