Arctic fox escapes West Saugerties petting zoo

Have you seen this fox? His name is Jasper and he is missed back at the farm.

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.

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“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.

Star, Jasper’s life mate.

There are 12 comments

  1. Chris Hasbrouck

    I think this cold weather awakened something in Jasper, something he couldn’t name, much less explain. Sure his life was great at the petting zoo- he had Star, his life mate, he had all the food he could eat. But something was missing. They say people on the dole view their bureaucratic benefactors with resentment rather than gratitude. Why? Well, the same reason UBI (universal basic income) won’t ever see the light of day- because people get an essential sense of dignity from work they can’t get any other way.

    I believe something similar must have happened with Jasper. Right now he’s running through the snow-covered forest, feeling more alive than ever before. His senses — deadened by disuse and the overwhelming smells of man (cooking, four-wheeler exhaust, vaping) — are coming back to him. He hears a scurrying sound beneath the snow. He freezes. His mouth waters. Unconsciously, he rears up, narrowing his front paws into a V, pauses there for a moment with his entire being concentrated on his task, and coming down with all the force of gravity his little 12-lb body can muster, plunging through the snow onto something warm, furry and wriggling. A single frantic squeak escapes from the vole before Jasper dives in, muzzle between paws, and snaps it up. The warm blood floods his mouth as he bites down once, and again, before he raises his head up to swallow the vole whole.

    It’s the most delicious meal of Jasper’s life.

  2. James Van Alstine

    This story refers to Michael’s Farm as “an informal sanctuary.” Petting zoos and sanctuaries are two entirely different types of operations, with divergent views of who animals are and how they should be handled. Michael’s is clearly a petting zoo, not a sanctuary. Let no one be confused. Sanctuaries exist to serve the best interests of animals. Petting zoos exist to place and often breed animals for the fleeting amusement of people. Anyone interested in real animal sanctuaries in our area may visit Catskill Animal Sanctuary or Woodstock Farm Animal Sanctuary. Unfortunately, even 11 years after the closure of the notorious Catskill Game Farm, animal exploiting roadside zoos continue to breed, display, profit from and occasionally lose exotic and more commonly domesticated animals in tawdry little facilities scattered around our region. Should Jasper be found, it is my hope that he (perhaps with his mate) will be placed with a reputable sanctuary.

  3. Laura Brown

    Agree with James. Petting zoos are not in the best interest of anyone but the owner. I pray the fox makes it to safety. These animals should not be here in the first place.

  4. Gretchen

    It doesn’t surprise me that a living being who is meant to be in the wild, not a shipping container, would try to get into the wild. It is horrible that he had to leave his family to do so, but prison is unacceptable, and a petting zoo is, for all intents and purposes, a prison for animals. If people want to interact with animals in a truly kind way, they should visit real animal sanctuaries, not petting zoos.

  5. Rebecca

    The article states Jasper was “born into captivity… ” Was it at this petting zoo? To echo Mr. Van Alstine and others – – to refer to a petting zoo as a “sanctuary” is to wrongly equate two divergent ideals. Sanctuaries and rescues NEVER breed animals, and minimize exploitation of the animals at all costs – they realize that too many animals in the world need help and care, and to breed animals simply increases the burden on society and drains resources with care of more animals. Whether Jasper himself was bred there at this point doesn’t matter, as other animals are breeding there (as stated in the article)…. and now the fact that this poor being got out into the wild after a life of only knowing domesticated-animal care is tragic. He cannot be expected to fare as well as his wild counterparts, and I just hope he is found safe.

  6. Lisa rieckermann

    If I were Jasper , I would run for the hills too. I would want to run free and not be confined to a life designed for human entertainment. Although likely well meaning , petting zoos do not honor the true nature of these wild animals , who are meant to be wild and live free .

  7. Paul

    Has he returned or been found? My neighbor said his dog has been on a strong hunt this week, thought maybe Jasper made it to the village of Saugerties. We have woods and a vets office where he would hear dogs and we are by water. Good Luck. The Fowler Advocacy.

  8. Andrew Halpern

    Wow. Tried and found guilty by opinion. It is amazing at how quick we are to pass judgment on someone without first getting more than one side of a story and these animals were all homeless or abandoned. If he did not take them in they would be dead. If you read the entire story it even says “An informal animal sanctuary, the site takes in all manner of homeless animals.” It costs lots of money to feed and take care of these animals. How else was he supposed to get more money to help give them something other than death? Judge not lest you be judged.

  9. Donna Harris

    I am sure the intent to care for these animals is good. I am not going to “try and find guilty”. I do question why these as described Arctic fox mixes are not spayed and/or neutered.

  10. Kate Skwire

    This is so irresponsible. If you were running a sanctuary, nobody would be born in captivity because sanctuaries don’t allow breeding as there are already millions of deserving homeless animals of all species that need care. The animals would have been spayed or neutered or better yet, rehabbed if possible so they could return to their lives in the wilderness where they belong. Instead you have made them your pets and presumably turned a profit on having them viewed by the public for a fee? I don’t know if that’s true but I do know that this poor fox is without his family and friends out in the woods and possibly not knowing how to obtain food as a result of your domestication of him. Please stop breeding.

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