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One fox loses leg, another removes own foot after being caught in illegal traps in Lexington

The leghold traps were placed near the border of Lexington and Arlington recently, trapping two foxes.

A fox lost its leg after being caught in an illegal trap in Lexington. Newhouse Wildlife Rescue

Two wild foxes were caught in illegal leghold traps near the border of Arlington and Lexington over the weekend, with one losing its leg in an emergency amputation and the other apparently gnawing off its own foot to escape.

A roughly six month-old fox was first spotted Saturday in Lexington, limping through town with a trap attached to its left front leg, according to the Chelmsford-based Newhouse Wildlife Rescue. Passersby alerted a nearby Lexington Police officer, who worked with residents to corner the animal into a garage while more help was called to the scene. 

The homeowners allowed officers to use things in their garage to blockade exits, containing the fox. Massachusetts Environmental Police were called, who contacted Newhouse en route. 

Dr. Victoria Vasilakis of Linwood Animal Hospital treats the injured fox. – Newhouse Wildlife Rescue

Working together, the team contained the fox and removed the rusty trap from its leg. But finding immediate medical care for it was another challenge. The veterinary clinics that Newhouse normally works with were all closed late Saturday afternoon. The fox desperately needed to be sedated so that its wounds could be cleaned. Veterinarians were also needed to take X-rays and administer strong pain medication, according to Newhouse. 


Victoria Vasilakis, chief of staff at Linwood Animal Hospital in Lowell, answered the call. She returned to work on an off day and cared for the animal. In a surprise, tests found that the fox did not suffer any broken bones. 

But concerns persisted that blood flow would not return to the injured leg.

Those fears were proven warranted less than 24 hours later. It soon became obvious that tissue was beginning to die and that the animal’s foot could not be saved, according to a post made by Newhouse Tuesday. A difficult decision needed to be made.

“He would likely not tolerate permanent placement, as he is old enough to know he is supposed to be free and fears people. He either needed to be humanely euthanized to end his suffering or go into emergency surgery for an amputation,” Newhouse wrote.

After consulting various experts, the wildlife rescue clinic made the decision to amputate the fox’s entire leg. Being left with a stump at the end of its leg would likely be more dangerous to the animal in the future than if it had to adapt to only having three legs.

Amanda Leef, an experienced veterinarian who has performed similar amputations before at Heal Veterinary Clinic in Watertown, was enlisted for the job on Monday.


After the surgery, the fox returned to Newhouse and was placed in an incubator to stay warm and comfortable. Staff at the clinic monitored the animal all night, and around 3 a.m. Tuesday morning the fox was let out to explore the room it was being kept in.

“He made it clear he wanted to get out. I opened the door to the incubator and stepped back. I gave him run of the rehab room to observe him,” a Newhouse staff member wrote. “I was blown away by how well he is already moving around. He has quickly, and seemingly effortlessly, found a way to balance himself.”

In another post, Newhouse clarified that two foxes were caught in leghold traps. They were placed close together, indicating that the same person placed both. The second fox was spotted in Arlington, but could not be caught. After speaking with police, Newhouse determined that the fox likely removed its own foot to set itself free. 

Lexington Police, Environmental Police, and Vasilakis did not immediately return a request for comment Tuesday morning. 

Environmental Police are investigating the matter, according to Newhouse. Leghold traps designed to capture furbearing mammals are illegal in Massachusetts except for under certain circumstances when there is a threat to human health and safety.


“There are still good, caring people out there. They come out of the woodwork when a wrong has been done,” Newhouse wrote on Facebook. 

A young fox was rescued from a rusty trap in Lexington Saturday. – Newhouse Wildlife Rescue


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