Weird Sampson Fox in Baltimore

One early fall dawn, I saw a strange looking fox trotting up the street. It looked like somebody took a razor to it and gave the poor thing a sadly unfoxlike haircut, not bald, but shorn like it just signed up for some kind of military branch with an inclusion clause that welcomed wild animals.

Now, I’d heard of foxes with mange, poor stinking, sickly things with uneven tufts of fur, obviously sick. This one moved at a brisk trot, pausing to sniff at the road, at the air. When it saw me it stopped short. I stood stock still. Apparently satisfied that I was no immediate threat, the fox went on it’s merry, yet, unattractive way. My son suggested that maybe it wasn’t even a fox.

Large pointy ears, thin pointy muzzle, the size, the shape – all except for the lack of its distinctive fur, this was a healthy yet ugly fox.

Dashing to the Web, I found that it could have been a chupacabra, a Tasmanian wolf without stripes, or one of those unnamed monsters occasionally found lying by a ditch in a slimy fetal position. After wading through all the nonsense, I learned that a rare genetic disease called Sampson’s inhibits the growth of guard hairs, the beautiful fluffy coat that gives a fox such unmistakable panache.

But, if it’s so rare, how come there are so many reports all over the country? The chances of seeing some rare creature be-bopping up my street struck me as pretty far-fetched.

Perhaps the mild winters we’ve experienced lately allows the Sampson fox to live through seasons that in years past would have killed it. Maybe we’re not seeing a freak, but a new kind of fox, a genetic mutation. Global warming has brought changes to the east coast, including the well documented northern expansion of brown pelicans, a real thrill for birdwatchers.

I welcome foxes to my neighborhood, glad to see a predator to dine on rats, mice, and our recent plague of baby bunnies. I love nature, enjoy the incursion of hawks and owls to the suburbs. But of all God’s beautiful creatures, why do I get this pathetic, postapocalyptic freak?

2 Responses to “Weird Sampson Fox in Baltimore”

  1. admin says:

    Here is a link to a National Geographic story on the Sampson Fox

    http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2006/03/0321_060321_tyco_fox_2.html

  2. Dianne says:

    I had the very same experience on my farm! I’ve had a few hens missing recently and some tail feather disappeared from my roosters recently. Only a fox would be bold enough to snatch rooster tails in the middle of the day!

    I finally spotted him one day in my goat pasture. When his head popped up from the grass I thought he was a baby deer! His face was so fawn colored and his ears so big and the hair was so short. As he trotted out in front of me, also very healthy, no bald patches and not sickly at all. I saw his long tail with a white tip. His coat was red fox colored, but short. He was so bold, I almost thought he was some sort of ferile dog. I walked closer and he wasn’t fearful of me. He had to find a hole to squeeze out of the goat fence, which wasn’t easy since my baby goats are even smaller than he. The goats and I followed him to the fence getting within 50 feet of him. So I got a good look at him. He sure didn’t look like he had mange! I’m thinking a Sampson Fox is not a myth at all!

    My neighbor saw him too and didn’t think he looked like he had mange either. I’m located in southern Pennsylvania, about 40 miles from Baltimore too!

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