LENOIR, N.C. (WBTV) - A rare Silver Fox spotted near a playground in Lenoir last week has been captured.
It’s something even the wildlife officers say they’ve never seen. The fox shut down the play area at the Martin Luther King Center after the fox was found living just feet away.
The fox was trapped neat Green Mountain Park and is being held by animal control.
An Ohio man claims the fox is his. The man says he had a permit for the animal and that it escaped while he was here visiting. Authorities are looking into the situation.
“I’ve never seen it, never,” said Captain Richard Tucker, who has been a Wildlife Resource Officer in North Carolina for 25 years.
On Thursday, officials said information came in that leads them to believe the fox was someone’s pet from out of state.
Wildlife officers and animal control were out looking for the silver fox in Lenoir Thursday afternoon.
Officials wanted to catch the animal before it to bred with local population.
Jose Tilly was the first person to spot the fox last 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.
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.