HOWELL, Mich. – Remember Axel the handsome rescue fox saved from a fur farm in Minnesota by Jennifer Patton?
His diet includes whole eggs and raw meat. He sleeps in the house but requires an outdoor enclosure too.
Now, four years later, Patton’s fox family has grown. Axel has inspired her to start a sanctuary where homeless domesticated foxes can live their lives in safety.
Emma was found roaming the streets of Toledo. She was born to a backyard breeder, adopted and then either escaped or was intentionally abandoned. Patton got the call and moved Emma to Michigan.
“All of our foxes here are permanent residents. They’re not going to go anywhere. We’re a sanctuary for them to live out their life happy and healthy and properly,” Patton said.
More than twenty foxes live at Foxes Journey Sanctuary, a 501c3 nonprofit started by Patton at her childhood home in Howell.
“Every since I’ve been little, I always told my dad that when he dies I’m gonna turn this place into an animal rescue. And we joke about it. He’s like, ‘Well I always thought this would happen when I was dead.’ I was like, ‘Me too, dad. But I’m glad it worked out that you’re still alive for it.’ Because he helps me out a lot,” Patton said.
Tinsel is Axel’s biological sister. She was surrendered by her owner when laws changed in Mississippi and she moved up to Michigan.
The foxes treat their favorite squeaky toys like their babies. They carry them around. Most foxes live with a companion and share a lifelong bond.
“These guys bonded in like thirty seconds. She fell madly in love with him,” Patton said.
Like any animal, they each have their own personality. It’s shaped by their life experiences. Cody and Fiona were both rescued from a fox hoarding situation in New York. Fiona is still cautious with Patton.
“When she first got here, she was great with me for the first five days. And then when I took her to the vet she did not like that,” Patton said.
Foxes Journey Sanctuary allows small groups of visitors to come learn about the foxes and volunteers can help care for them. People can also sponsor a fox for a monthly donation. Patton sends sponsors photos and videos and they can visit their fox anytime.
“Foxes are really good at marking. Which means they pee in their food and water. Which is also why I change out their water and food quite often,” Patton said. “I just don’t think a lot of people are prepared. And then when it hits them, the reality, it becomes so overwhelming that their first reaction is, ‘I gotta get rid of this.’”
Axel has his own companion now. Patton adopted a red fox kit named Isabel. They’re fast friends already.
Unfortunately, Tinsel passed away last year. She had a genetic issue common with fur farm foxes due to bad breeding.
The good news it that Foxes Journey Sanctuary is expanding. They’re moving to a 10-acre farm in Leslie, Michigan later this year.
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