Gray Fox Raised Illegally as a Pet Gets New Life at New Mexico Wildlife Center

Though they look cute and cuddly, don’t be tempted to keep wild animals as pets. Though we’ve all dreamed of cuddling an otter or having a fox curled up on the foot of our beds, we’re far better off sticking to domesticated pets like dogs, cats, and hamsters. Wild animals come with a whole host of complications, and attempting to keep them can cause many problems for both the animals and the humans who have trapped them.

This gray fox who was raised illegally as a pet, but has thankfully found a new home as an “animal ambassador” at the New Mexico Wildlife Center north of Santa Fe, where she can frolic in a habitat more suited to her needs. Though her upbringing made her incapable of surviving in the wild, she can still help educate people about the nature of gray foxes and why it’s such a bad idea to try to keep one as a pet.

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In this video, we meet animal ambassador Juniper, a young gray fox who was unfortunately kept as a pet when she was a kit. Because she is used to hanging around humans, she was deemed ineligible for release into the wild, and is now a permanent resident at the wildlife center. Her story, fortunately, ended happily, which is not the case for many wild animals who are taken in by humans to keep illegally as pets.

Related: Fox Is Positively Giddy When Her Favorite Dog Comes Out to Play

Gray Foxes Are Not “True Foxes”

Gray foxes, despite the name, are not considered “true foxes” due to their scientific classification as part of the Urocyon genus instead of the Vulpes genus (like the better-known red fox). They are an ancient breed of canine and were once far more common in the United States than the red fox. They are particularly adapted to climbing trees (as Juniper demonstrates in this video) due to an extra bone in their wrist, and are known for their beautiful, silvery fur, which makes them a popular target for hunters.

Gray foxes are widespread throughout North America, where they tend to live in wooded areas and are particularly shy of humans. That is, unless someone has tried to train them.

Why Keeping Wild Animals as Pets Are a Bad Idea

When finding an orphaned or injured juvenile wild animal, it can be very tempting to try to raise it as a pet. But if you ever saw the old Disney movie, The Fox and the Hound, you know why that’s a bad idea. Wild animals are still wild animals, and once you have taught a young wild animal to behave as a pet, you’ve set it up for a lifetime of confusion, which may even lead to its death.

As it grows, you may realize that it is unsuited to domestic life and try to release it into the wild, where it may suffer and die because it’s not trained to survive on its own.

And if you try to keep it as an illegal pet, you may be discovered, resulting in fines or at least having the animal confiscated from you.

In worst-case scenarios, if there is no facility that can take the animal in on a permanent basis, like this wildlife center, the creature may be destroyed. This is why it is very important not to hand feed or otherwise try to tame wild animals, and if you find an orphaned or injured wild animal, to contact a proper wildlife rehabilitation center instead of taking on the project on your own.

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