the inside by boring beetles, finally had enough of nature's assault and began losing branches under the weight of the ice and snow. This tree is located right between Shawnee and Jake (gray foxes) and Misty and Rusty's (red foxes) enclosures. And their enclosures took some major hits.
Luckily the gray fox pen suffered fairly minor damage. A large branch fell and barely missed destroying the pen. It ended up wedging into the chain link and merely bending it.
The reds' pen was not quite as lucky. While thankfully it also avoided major disaster, it had a rough night. A small branch off the pine fell from up high and caused a surprising amount of damage to the pen. It hit the overhead bar in the center which bent in half but prevented the branch from crashing completely through the roof. A second branch fell on the other corner of the front of the pen. This branch hit the corner brace on the panel and broke in half. Half of the branch fell to the ground and half crashed through the roof of the pen. After the snow stopped I counted a total of 14 branches that had fallen in the backyard near the animals' enclosures. Click here to see all the photos.
Another problem that arose was the shrub that grows inside the red pen became so heavy with ice and snow it bent and froze solid in front of Rusty's den box. When it's not mating season Misty doesn't allow him into the main den box while she is in there. So he was lying under the slide. I had to go out during the sleet and snow and break several branches off the shrub to allow him access back into his den.
After the storm stopped, the logs are still coated with ice and the grays cannot climb anything in their pens. The latches and locks were completely encased in ice. My gloves were sticking to everything leaving trails of black and pink fuzzies everywhere. I'm not used to winters this severe!
Dealing with animals which have little information known about their care as pets is often a learning experience. But what I learned today is more about dealing with the outdoor enclosures. Chainlink pens are awesome. If the red fox pen had been handcrafted of only posts and wire, the falling branches likely would've caved in the entire pen. With the ceiling of my reds' pen being made of
welded wire, it's only thanks to the steel bars across the top of the chain link panel that the ceiling didn't cave in. The part of the welded wire ceiling which was hit was severly damaged all the way to the nearest brace and was unable to be repaired. I had to go out during the storm and dig extra wire out of the snow and cut a temporary patch to weave into the exsisting ceiling. This taught me
another valuable lesson. Store some extra wire indoors. The wire was so cold that it kept breaking at the weld. I had to warm it a bit before weaving it into the exsisting ceiling. It's made me hesitant about using welded wire for any part of the pen. I've never felt real comfortable about using it on walls which
is why I've always stuck to chainlink, but now I think that it's also risky on the roof. Chain link and goat panels are expensive as well as heavy and hard to handle as roofing. I'm going to look into other roofing options in the spring. At least use lots of braces if you have a welded wire roof.
I also found with the damage to the gray fox pen that the chainlink once again prevented a bad situation from potentially being much worse. Being interwoven galvanized steel, the chainlink just bent and was stopped by the part below it. Welded wire or chicken wire likely would've detached or broken as far down as the branch would have fallen, like it did on the roof of the red pen.
While natural disasters are usually uncommon in our individual lives, they are things we always need to keep in mind. Due to their past, the foxes in my two damaged pens are outdoor foxes all the time. These foxes fall into two "outdoor-only fox" categories: The ones who live outside simply because they find indoor environments too stressful, but can still be picked up and put into crates; and the ones you can't (or shouldn't due to the stress it causes them) pick up at all so you have to trick or bribe them to go into a crate. The two red foxes cannot be handled easily. I can fairly easily handle the grays but indoors they are prone to panic and must be kept in crates. If your fox(es) are indoor/outdoor pets (which is ideal) don't force them be out in any kind of foul weather. But if you have foxes that fall into either of the other categories, sometimes they will end up in less than ideal
weather conditions. We don't always have sufficient heads up that snow is going to turn into an ice storm, or rain will turn into a flood. So you must do your best to construct a safe and secure enclosure for your full-time outdoor foxes. However, even with a superbly crafted enclosure, if you know a major storm like a tornado or hurricane is likely to hit you should always bring your outdoor foxes indoors for their safety. Have emergency plans in place now. In most circumstances you should have a seperate crate for each fox and crates for other pets in your home. There are exceptions to seperating your foxes. I would never seperate Misty and Rusty. When stressed, Rusty turns to Misty for comfort so
seperating them would be cruel. But animals can be unpredictable. An extra crate is important in case they start to fight from the stressful situation and have to be seperated. Make sure you have enough space for your pets in your storm shelter or the inner closet or room you use to ride out storms.
In addition to your first aid kit you should have a special one for your pets as well. Some items that we use, such as pain killers and adhesive bandages, don't work so well for our furry friends. There are specialty bandages, medicines, and ointments made specifically for animals. These aren't always worth the extra expense. Some human items can be used for your pets. Bactine to cleanse wounds, ouchless bandages, and Benadryl are some examples of these. Remember to always consult your vet as soon as possible if your pet is ill or injured or before using meds. Also in your prep kit should be one or more extra blankets, leashes, harnesses (or collars), and muzzle (because any scared or injured animal can become a dangerous animal). It's all about being reasonably prepared for anything because your pet has no way to do that on his own.
Click here for photos of the beauty, the damage, and the foxes playing in snow.