With her white winter coat, the newest arrival at Great Bend’s Brit Spaugh Zoo looks ready for Christmas. But it will be several weeks before Vixey, an arctic fox, will move to an enclosure that is open to public viewing, said Marge Bowen, zoo curator.
Bowen traveled to Wichita Wednesday to pick up the fox, which comes to Great Bend from the Winnipeg Zoo in Canada. To make paperwork for the international move less complicated, Canadians drove the fox to Grand Forks, N.D., and then had her flown to Wichita.
Like all new animals at the zoo, Vixey must stay in quarantine for about a month. That will give her time to adjust to her new home and ensure that she isn’t carrying an illness that could spread to other animals. Meanwhile, her secluded enclosure has a stuffed animal for her to play with, and Vixey comes to attention when zoo staff look in on her. She seems more curious than afraid in her new home.
“She was born in May,” Bowen said. Zoo administrators hope to get a male arctic fox in the spring so the pair can breed.
The fox is named after Vixey the vixen in Disney’s 1981 feature film, “The Fox and the Hound.”
Administrators have been looking for an animal that could take the place of bobcats in the North American section of the zoo. The enclosure wasn’t adequate for the cats, according to the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, because it didn’t have a place for them to move indoors in cold weather. But Bowen said it will be a great habitat for the foxes, who like to burrow. They’ve added some dirt and some wire reinforcement, so Vixey can dig but won’t be able to escape.
In the wild, arctic foxes mostly eat rabbits. At Brit Spaugh Zoo, she’ll get a variety of small rodents and quail.
At about 7 months old, the arctic fox is young but fully grown. “They have a white coat during the winter and a brown coat in the summer,” Bowen said. One other thing she’s learned: “Foxes smell like skunks!”