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Mange & scabies alert due to Wheat Ridge foxes

Mange and scabies aren't ailments most of us associate with the 21st century.

But Wheat Ridge Police Department spokeswoman Lisa Stigall says they're still around and a very real danger in her community thanks to some stricken foxes, as is demonstrated by a disgusting photo on view below.

According to Stigall, multiple foxes have been spotted in Wheat Ridge with sarcoptic mange -- a skin ailment caused by mites that burrow under the skin, causing afflicted animals to itch so badly that they literally tear the fur from their bodies. Worse, it's contagious, with the potential of spreading to pets and even humans in the form of scabies -- something Wheat Ridge officers see from time to time, Stigall notes.

"When we come into contact with someone who has scabies, we have to go through a complete decontamination process," she says. "And so does anything they've touched, any vehicle they've been in."

People who feed wildlife -- especially the more tenderhearted ones -- are susceptible to getting mite bites.

"The foxes will look like they've got something crusty on their skin and spots that are nasty and hairless," Stigall points out. "They're going to look horrible, and they're often suffering from hypothermia, because of the lack of fur, so it's only natural that people are going to feel sorry for them, think, 'Poor thing!' I'm an animal lover 100 percent, so I understand that. But they're basically looking for a warm place to die. That's why we're seeing them wander around during the daytime. There's a high population of foxes right now, so this may be nature's way of bringing things back into balance."

Look below to get more details on the dos and don'ts when it comes to mangy foxes from a Wheat Ridge PD release:

WARNING

Urban Wildlife Carrying Sarcoptic Mange

Mange is highly contagious to animals and humans

Wheat Ridge, Colorado -- The City of Wheat Ridge and surrounding communities have recently experienced an increase in calls reporting sick foxes in the city.

According to an assessment performed by the Division of Wildlife, a number of the sick foxes running around the communities have a condition called Sarcoptic Mange. Mange is a condition where mites burrow in the skin causing the infected animal to suffer from intense itching, skin crusting at the site and fur loss.

Foxes in more advanced stages have been seen wondering in a dazed state during the day.

Mange is contagious to other animals as well as humans. The human form of mange is called Scabies. Scabies can be transmitted by direct skin-to skin contact or by exposure to affected objects. Scabies mites can live with out a human host for 24 to 36 hours.

Several things citizens should remember:

• Do not feed the foxes (or any wildlife).

• Do not try to befriend the foxes.

• Stay away from the foxes -- especially if they look sick.

• Monitor your pet's activities when they are outside.

• If you spot a sick fox or find a carcass, do not touch it and contact your local animal control office.

• If you are exposed to an animal with mange, immediately wash the area thoroughly and contact your health care provider.

Citizens can call 303.237.2220 to report any sick or dead animals.

More from our Follow That Story archive: "An American Idol audition that killed a dog."

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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts