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Officials: Boom in Fox Population Could Explain Mistaken 'Jaguar' Sighting

Fox with mange looks less like a fox; mange spread when fox population higher.

Environmental Conservation Officers believe the animal that was reported as being an exotic cat may actually be a fox with mange.

"They have been kind of seeing a boom in the fox population," said State Department of Environmental Conservation spokesman Bill Fonda. "When they are booming, foxes come in contact with each other and often spread mange through the population."

The infected fox's fur falls out in splotches. "Maybe it ultimately makes the fox look less fox-like," Fonda said.

"Red fox are very susceptible to mange, a disease caused by the mite Sarcoptes scabei. Mange mites burrow into the skin, thereby causing irritation, skin thickening (hyperkeratosis), and hair loss. Infected individuals may make it through the summer months, but quickly succumb to hypothermia once winter arrives," according to the DEC website.

Red foxes are prevalent on Long Island. Fonda said they can measure as large as 26-inches from head to the end of the body with a 14-inch tail, and 16-inches to the shoulder. "That makes it a fairly large animal," he said. Grey foxes, not as prevalent on Long Island, measure about the same, he said.

The person who reported the jaguar-like animal at a Spring Close Lane farm on Sunday estimated it to be five feet long and two feet to the shoulder.

Another caller reported seeing a fox that had some issue with its fur in the Hither Hills area on Wednesday morning. Earlier on Wednesday, Fonda told Patch the caller thought at first it was an exotic cat.

If it was a fox in both instances, the question remains whether it was the fox. Fonda said fox often travel in a five-mile radius.

Fonda said a fox with mange doesn't pose any direct danger to humans or other animals. He said they can be more irritable, however. "Exercise normal precautions viewing or getting in contact with an animal that has the potential to bite," he said.

, the veterinarian at the in Wainscott, said. "We don't see that type of mange, we see other types of mange," on the East End.

While mange is transmitted through direct exposure, Alward said it could be contracted through an environment where the fox was recently. "I don't see why they couldn't leave eggs behind," she said.

Mange is intensely itchy, she said, but treatable.

Anyone who spots a sick animal can call the ECO at 631-444-0250 or the wildlife unit hotiline at 631-444-0310.

Editor's Note: The photographs used here are not of the fox sighted on Wednesday, but of a fox with mange seen in Massachusetts in June.

Eastend50 September 12, 2012 at 06:57 PM
The DEC is correct. I have started seeing several red foxes in the past 2-3 years in the fields south of Wainscott. They are small, fast animals with healthy red coats. None look like the one pictured above. He looks like an escapee from a hotdog factory.
matt stutterheim September 12, 2012 at 07:42 PM
I'm surprised nobody has connected the dots yet.... A Montauk tourist missing for over a week, and a sighting of an obviously large predator on the Western edge of Amagansett, on Sunday. This animal obviously was getting its nutrition somewhere. Even if a fox, mangy or not, don't they hunt in packs?
matt stutterheim September 12, 2012 at 07:47 PM
Tranquilizer guns should be used on the cougars seen around town, so as to not mistakenly injure other patrons at the bars and watering holes. Don't they have gardeners or pool guys?
Gordon Matheson September 13, 2012 at 04:37 AM
I think I saw a 7 foot lion near Hook Pond on Monday or maybe it was a 3 foot poodle. I'm so confused. What I haven't seen is any foxes with mange. I did see a mustang pass a jaguar on the right on 27. Then the jaguar caught up to him. Big teeth and claws! Poor pony.
Wendy Saunders September 13, 2012 at 01:30 PM
@Matt Stutterheim: No foxes do not hunt in packs. Wolves hunt in packs. Foxes are solitary creatures coming together only to mate.
Lynne Scanlon September 13, 2012 at 02:38 PM
There was a motley looking skinny fox snooping around my backyard in Springs in June. His coat was patchy looking and grayish. I thought foxes were built low to the ground and had reddish/orange coats, but not this fox. He was large and rangy. (No it was not a dog.) Google fox foot print.
Martha Nassauer September 14, 2012 at 06:22 AM
EC Officers believe the animal that was reported as being an exotic cat "may" actually be a fox with mange. DEC says "Tracks 'likely' not from Jaguar, but 'perhaps' a fox." Would love a better description and possible video segment from source, as the words "may," and "likely" do not persuade me as a reader or resident that something other than a fox is impossible. There is nothing definitive here. Money can buy anything, even a large creature 5 feet long and 2 feet to the shoulder. From time to time exotic animals escape from zoos designed to house similar creatures to the one reported, with employees paid and trained to be responsible for their care and containment. Why dismiss an eyewitness with "maybe's," and why discredit this report when we have no evidence either way? In today's day and age, nothing is certain to me.
Bob McCoy September 20, 2012 at 03:50 AM
Out here in the west, the statistics on mountain lion sightings is that about 80% of the time, no lion is involved in the sighting. Canid tracks usually show the nails, felids (other than Cheetas) retract their claws, and their foot prints rarely show claws.

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