LENOIR, N.C. (WBTV) – The playground area at the Martin Luther King Center in Lenoir is off-limits to everyone after a fox was found living just feet away. And it’s not just any fox – it’s a rare silver fox.
It’s something even the wildlife officers say they’ve never seen, and something they won’t be moving.
“I’ve never seen it, never,” said Captain Richard Tucker, who has been a Wildlife Resource Officer in North Carolina for 25 years.
Jose Tilly was the first person to spot the fox Wednesday morning under the center’s shelter.
After it moved slowly into the woods, just feet from the playground equipment, it let WBTV’s cameras get fairly close.
Jose, on the other hand, would have none of that.
“I stayed back, didn’t want to be around it,” he said.
There was originally fear the fox may be rabid. So, Center Director Lester Whittington wanted something done.
“I wish they would remove it, but I’m not an expert,” Whittington said.
The people who are experts say they don’t think the fox is sick at all.
“Seems to be pretty healthy,” one official said. “And maybe has set up a den in the woods. Probably has babies there, trying to protect them like we would.”
Just how this fox came to be here is a mystery, officials say. It’s actually in the Red Fox family, but with a twist.
Officials say it’s a similar situation as a white deer, which have been spotted here and there in the Carolinas. Like the white deer, a recessive gene in the red fox caused it to be silver.
But unlike the white deer, the silver fox is so rare it’s rarely seen south of Canada.
While officials with the center want it removed, wildlife officers won’t.
“As long as its not showing aggression at all,” they explained.
Even so, officials have cordoned off the playground area and told neighbors to be on the lookout – and to be aware of and stay away from the animal.
Eventually, the fox family will move on, likely not to be spotted again. But at least for one day folks got to see it. Officials say the playground area will stay closed until they are certain the fox has moved on.
Officials say if you spot any wild animals the best advice is to stay back, don’t frighten them, and don’t feed them. They’ll probably just go on their way.
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