News & Politics

A Fox Got Its Head Stuck in a Gate. Thank God for Soap!

Image courtesy of the Humane Rescue Alliance.

Sometimes the only way out is through. Unless you are a tiny, furry mammal. A tiny, furry mammal with very large ears. Large ears that happen to be stuck in a metal gate. Then, sorry, you can’t really can’t get through.

Well, not without a ton of soap, that is. Such was the case for a fox that got its head stuck in the gate of a private home in Northwest DC the morning of August 5.

Elesha Young and Christina Best of the Humane Rescue Alliance showed up at the scene of the struggle around 7 AM after receiving a call from the homeowner. He’d discovered the fox after letting his dogs out in the morning, when they immediately started barking at the critter captive on their domain. Young estimates the fox was around a year old, although she can’t be sure whether it was male or female. “I didn’t really look,” she says when questioned.

(For what it’s worth, this isn’t the first Washington fox-adjacent story that’s been thrust into the media spotlight: A fox was spotted last month stealing copies of the Washington Post from people’s doorsteps. At the time of publication, Washingtonian couldn’t verify whether these foxes are known acquaintances.)

Like socks or Mary-Kate and Ashley, it seems animal control officers are at their best when in a pair. “Usually, animals stuck in fences are a two-person job,” says Young. “One needs to restrain the animal, and the other person will do the job of getting the animal free.”

The duo kept the fox calm as they worked to free it, pouring soap around its neck and the top of its head between its ears, taking care to keep it out of its eyes. (And before you ask—the soap was all-organic and biodegradable.) Best went around to the other side of the gate, flattening the animal’s ears back against its body, quickly pushing the head through as Young pulled the body. And pop—voila! A free fox.

Despite a little blood around its nose, Young and Best decided the fox was in good enough shape to be released, so they let it scamper off into the horizon toward nearby Rock Creek Park.

Young is somewhat of a hardened veteran when it comes to animal extraction—she’s seen some stuff, man. “This is not actually my first fox call,” she says. Earlier this year, she came to the aid of a fox trapped in a soccer net at a Petworth school. “I pretty much understand the gist of foxes getting tangled or stuck in things.”

But why was the little guy trapped in the first place? Young isn’t really sure—perhaps it was trying to escape a nearby dog or cars on the street, she says. “They’re usually pretty smart, but they are sly creatures. They do like to crawl under things,” she says, displaying the kind of grace we could all probably extend to our fellow humans during these tough times: “A little inexperienced fox made a mistake, and hopefully won’t do it again.”

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Mimi Montgomery Washingtonian
Associate Editor

Mimi Montgomery joined Washingtonian in 2018. Her work has appeared in Outside Magazine, Washington City Paper, DCist, and PoPVille. Originally from North Carolina, she now lives in Petworth.