A hairless fox sneaks across a grass field near Eagleridge Drive last week. Hairless foxes were blamed for the killing of about 50 cats five years ago. Residents have reported seeing the animals again in recent weeks.
Steamboat Springs Is your cat safe?
A Steamboat Springs resident recently reported seeing an animal similar to ones blamed for the disappearance of about 50 local felines five years ago.
Joanna Wragg, who spends summers in Steamboat and winters in Miami, snapped a photo of a hairless fox from her deck looking across Eagleridge Drive toward Burgess Creek Road on Thursday. But Wragg said she first saw a group of five hairless foxes a couple of weeks before at the top of Eagleridge near Mount Werner Circle.
"There were four rolling in the grass like puppies," she said. ": The adult in the middle of the road actually stopped traffic. There were three cars waiting in the road. This woman eased forward and said, 'What on earth is that?' I said, 'I don't know. I've never seen it before.' The guy in the car behind me said, 'That's a hairless fox.'"
Steamboat Springs Police Capt. Joel Rae said Monday that the department hasn't received any reports recently about hairless foxes killing pets like it did four to five years ago. But Rae added that he saw one, and it exhibited behavior typical of foxes in the area.
"We don't have any information that they're threatening pets or people at this time," he said. ": It's certainly not something we're concerned about at this time, based on the information we have."
In late 2004, a hairless fox - or foxes - was linked to reports of missing cats in Steamboat. A Division of Wildlife official said then that she thought the fox had a skin disease that resulted in hair loss. The official said because of that lack of fur, the hairless fox had to eat "constantly to sustain itself."
Law enforcement officers that year were told to destroy hairless foxes, if it could be done safely, after one bit a Steamboat resident who was trying to rescue his cat.
Just days after issuing the order to kill the animal in September 2005, a Steamboat Springs Police Department officer shot one of the foxes after it stole a burrito from a pickup truck in a parking lot at the southeast corner of Village Drive and Walton Creek Road.
At the time, police thought the fox was the same one that bit the man trying to save his cat because it was shot only a block away from where that incident occurred. They also thought then that more hairless foxes lurked throughout Steamboat.
Rae said that if his department receives reports that the hairless foxes are endangering people or animals, a similar order could be made to kill or trap the animals so they can be removed from town.