Fox rescued in the nick of time from freezing slurry lagoon in Wiltshire

The fox had walked out onto the 25 metre expanse of rain-filled plastic sheeting, covering the lagoon, but was unable to get back out. Credit: RSPCA

A fox that was trapped in a Wiltshire farm’s slurry lagoon has been rescued by the RSPCA.

He had walked out onto the 25 metre (82 foot) expanse of rain-filled plastic sheeting, covering the lagoon in Warminster.

But because the sides were steep and very slippery, he was unable to get back out.

The concerned farmer was unable to coax the fox to safety, so he contacted the RSPCA for help.  

RSPCA animal rescue officer, Gemma Gumbleton, said: "This poor fox had been trapped in the pooled water on the plastic sheeting for some time and was in real danger.

"As he moved around to try to get away from the water, he would weigh down that section of sheeting and the water would pool around him again. 

"He needed to be rescued urgently as the bitter cold and stress could have killed him."

She continued: "My usual rescue poles just wouldn’t stretch far enough, and because of his anxiety, the panicked wild animal wouldn’t stay still to allow me to reach him anyway.

"Because of these challenges, I knew this rescue would need specialists with expert skills, so I contacted the local Dorset & Wiltshire Fire and Rescue Service.

"Three of their units were soon on the scene, including the 'large animal rescue' team, who brought an inflatable raft."

The Fire and Rescue teams used the raft to safely get onto the water-filled sheeting, but still the fox managed to evade them.

"Finally, after more than three hours, the poor fox was so tired, cold and wet that he became virtually immobile," Gemma said.

"At that point, one of the Fire and Rescue team members climbed down onto the surface of the sheeting and was able to catch and put him into a rescue container.  

"To try to warm the fox up, I put the heating in my van on full blast and lined his carrier with dry towels.

"I then took him to a local vet who had kindly agreed to look after him overnight. On our arrival, the vet checked the fox over before tucking him up with pet-friendly hot water bottles for the night."

"Against all odds, this was a really successful rescue." Credit: RSPCA

Gemma feared the story may not have a happy ending for the fox, but fortunately he made a swift recovery.

She said: "I was so worried the fox wouldn’t survive; the shock of this kind of experience can often kill a wild animal.

"But the next morning, I was relieved and delighted to discover him looking bright-eyed and bushy tailed so it was time for me to return him to the wild.

"I transported him near to - but not too near - the place where he got himself into such a pickle, then let him out of the container and he immediately ran off into the countryside.

"Against all odds, this was a really successful rescue and my thanks go to the skilled teams of Dorset & Wiltshire Fire and Rescue Service.

"Without their help, the outcome could have been very different, but this happy ending means that the fox is hopefully living his best life now.

"It’s a great reminder what we can achieve together for animal welfare."

For more information about what to do if a wild animal is found in distress, visit the RSPCA’s website.

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