A farmer performed an emergency C-section on a dead fox at the side of a busy road, saving the lives of four cubs in the process.
Chris Rolfe, 24, carried out the life-saving operation after he witnessed the female vixen getting ran over and killed by car.
After seeing the crash happen, the farmer immediately stopped his vehicle to see if the fox was still alive or if it was suffering.
Chris said he couldn’t leave the fox to die or suffer by itself on the side of a road without first checking on it and seeing if he could help.
The farmer, from Haywards Heath, West Sussex, said:
I saw her on the road and stopped to check and see if she was suffering. It was instinctive. Otherwise instead of one life lost, it would have been the death of all of the cubs as well as the mum.
The 24-year-old was travelling back from his farm on the A272, near Cowfold, at around 11:45pm when the incident occurred and his instinct kicked in.
After carrying out a few checks on the injured animal, Chris discovered the vixen had died. However, when he checked her stomach he could see it was moving, indicating to the farmer that she was pregnant.
The farmer ran to his car to get a knife out and performed an emergency C-section on the fox, delivering four baby cubs that measured just six inches long.
I didn’t think about it, I just done it. It was just something I felt obliged to do, I wouldn’t want to see the mum suffer and that is why I got out of the car.
And then when I realised she had passed away when I was checking her body, I saw her stomach moving. I couldn’t think about it too much, I just had to perform the C-section because every minute is crucial.
After I got the cubs out, I took them straight to my mum’s and she cared for them – making sure they were clean and getting their circulation going, making sure they were up and running.
Although Chris does not have any veterinary training, the farmer has previously performed a C-section during lambing season.
After delivering the cubs, Chris put them into his jacket pockets and drove them to his mum’s house, where they have since been hand-reared.
Chris’s mum, Jean Rolfe, said they both acted fast when Chris arrived at her home:
Chris put them in his pockets and delivered to me. They arrived all bloody, and in the wild mum would lick them to get clean. Mum would also have quite a rough tongue as well, which would help to get the circulation going. But I wasn’t going to do that.
So we got a damp towel and just really rubbed them quite hard, harder then what you would think, and that actually washes them and gets the circulation going. We then put them in a cardboard box on top of a heater to keep them warm.
Cubs also can’t pee and poo themselves and so mum would normally lick them. So we got damp cotton wool and cleaned those areas, to make sure they are able to go to the toilet because that is a major factor in what could kill them.
The cubs are now seven weeks old and the family are working with the Fox Project, a registered charity dedicated to protecting the Red Fox.
The youngsters are called Ginger, Biscuit, Big Tip and Little Tip, with Chris saying he is ‘really pleased’ they are all healthy.
The programme will aim to get the cubs back into the wild at the age of six months.
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A Broadcast Journalism Masters graduate who went on to achieve an NCTJ level 3 Diploma in Journalism, Lucy has done stints at ITV, BBC Inside Out and Key 103. While working as a journalist for UNILAD, Lucy has reported on breaking news stories while also writing features about mental health, cervical screening awareness, and Little Mix (who she is unapologetically obsessed with).