Don’t dismiss any movement you might see out of the corner of your eye in the new snow — a white Arctic Fox mix escaped from a West Saugerties petting zoo last week and his owner is looking for him.
The animal, a five-year-old by the name of Jasper, has covered some ground since getting loose, and was last sighted in the Mount Marion area off the Glasco Turnpike in the vicinity of Church Road.
“I feel pretty guilty about it,” said Tammy Drost, co-owner of Michael’s Petting Zoo on Kate Yaeger Road. “I came home from work Wednesday and one of my foxes was outside the house — I don’t know if he jumped up and flipped the latch [on his enclosure].”
A lifelong Saugertiesian, Drost has lived and managed the farm for almost 10 years. Alongside foxes, she cares for a slew of animals including traditional farm fare like pigs and donkeys, and more exotic ones like peacocks and fallow deer. An informal animal sanctuary, the site takes in all manner of homeless animals.
Jasper, who was born in captivity and bottle-fed by Drost at a young age, was last seen on the property last Wednesday afternoon. He has brown eyes, light brown markings and is about two hands tall. Although he is reportedly friendly, his owner warns anyone who may find him not to attempt to touch him, and asks instead that they try to trap him in a garage or other closed space until she can get there. “If they get scared, they still have wild instincts,” she said.
Jasper has left behind his lifetime mate, Star, as well as his sons Snow and Flynn. Drost, who educates visitors and local Girl Scout troops using the foxes at the children’s petting zoo, says that she adopted her initial two foxes from a woman on Craigslist, who provided her with their accompanying certifications as farm animals. (She exchanges pups from the foxes’ litters with another fox breeder in Pennsylvania to prevent interbreeding.) The animals eat a combination of dog and cat food and require all the same vaccinations as a household dog. Tamed foxes are legal to keep in 12 states; in Massachusetts, according to Drost, no permit is required.
“I want people to not think of foxes as something that sneaks into chicken coops to eat chickens — they are sweet and loving and beautiful, just like a cat or a dog,” said Drost. “People think that they’ll kill their cats or dogs but they don’t — they’re actually afraid of cats.”
The three pairs of foxes live in a shipping container modified with chain link fencing, built by local Girl Scout Troop 60033 for a Silver Award Project over an eight-month period to provide both indoor and outdoor spaces for the animals. Mulch is laid under dirt in their enclosure to facilitate digging and branches overlay the top of the enclosure.
“We’ve been visiting Tammy’s farm for the last nine years. The girls love it. Tammy had some fox babies and we thought ‘let’s give them more space for our project,’” said Troop Leader Phoebe McDonough. “He’s not one of the diggers — I was surprised he was the one that got out.”
According to McDonough, one of the scouts crafted a bulletin board and trifold pamphlet with information on domesticated foxes that Drost still uses.
“He’s going to stick out like a sore thumb, and I’m worried with all the hunters in the area, or that someone will think he’s rabid because he’s so friendly,” said Drost.
Text or call (845) 399-8645 with any information you may have on Jasper’s whereabouts, or to schedule a visit to the farm to visit the animals still at home.