The National Zoo in Washington, D.C. euthanized a fox that it blamed for the deaths of 25 flamingos and a duck earlier in May, trapping and killing the feisty predator last week, the Washington Examiner reported.
The zoo used traps set near its flamingo habitat in order to catch the animal responsible for digging into the enclosure and killing 25 birds on May 2. During the hours between Thursday night and Friday morning, a male fox was caught in the traps. The zoo euthanized it soon after, following zoo policy on humane euthanasia.
“When a predator successfully breaches a barrier, it demonstrates a learned behavior, which will most likely be repeated and must be considered an ongoing threat,” Pamela Baker-Masson, a spokesperson for the National Zoo, told the Examiner. “In this case, it appears the predator(s) displayed ‘surplus killing’ behavior (a predator kills more prey than they can immediately eat, so they hide or abandon the remainder). The zoo takes seriously its commitment to protect and care for its animals, and in this case, the removal of the predator was necessary.”
The euthanized fox was given a rabies test which turned up negative. But zoo officials could not rule out the possibility that fox was not the same animal that was responsible for the flamingo killings, which led to critics accusing the zoo of killing an animal without sufficient proof.
The zoo said in response it was unable to relocate the fox because there were already large wild fox populations in the area.
“Red fox populations exist at near or at capacity in this region and currently are increasing due to their annual birth of kits,” Baker-Masson said. “Relocating the fox could have jeopardized his well-being and/or the foxes already using that home range.”