On May 6, 2013, an independent-minded grey fox named Ifa was born in Minnesota. Ten days later, our lives changed forever as the ‘kit-moms’, Amanda, Bronwyn, and Zach brought Ifa, Gypsum, and Hunter to Wolf Park and into our lives as the park’s first socialized grey foxes. Even on the ride home, Ifa made it abundantly clear that she was an independent vixen by continually attempting to climb out of the nest box her mothers’ had prepared for her. She almost succeeded! From an early age, she kept her kit-moms busy with unpredictable behavior, and was usually the first to surprise them with the onset of the next stage of development earlier than expected. She chose an exclusive group of people to be her best friends. The circle expanded only once to include volunteer Jacob, although she tolerated and worked with most other people.
Even with her independent attitude, Ifa loved training with anyone who had a treat. The sound of a bait bag opening would pull Ifa out of a slumber, onto a platform and ready to work; unless, of course, it was early. She wasn’t always a morning fox (and was often seen with ridiculous bed head if disturbed). She was quick to pick up cues and was known most for her signature “wave” and “meerkat” pose. If you were working with Gypsum or Hunter and looked down, you would typically find Ifa at your feet, offering up a behavior in hopes of a reward.
Along with training, Ifa also enjoyed rambles around the park. Exploring tall grass was always a favorite, and negotiating with the handler in an attempt to climb a tree or go under a deck was always attempted. Walks were always on her terms, though—she wouldn’t always choose to go. She would, however, dictate when she came back. On one occasion, she refused to go home and instead walked twice around the loop trail, enjoying a leisurely spring day.
On Wednesday, August 17, Ifa began acting not quite right. Our vet, Dr. Becker, was coming out to examine several other animals, and we put her in the line-up. After a brief exam, it was decided to keep her in the Alison Franklin Animal Care Center overnight and take her to the clinic the following morning in order to do a full work-up. At the clinic, Ifa’s abdominal area didn’t look right. After consulting with another doctor, surgery was recommended. It quickly became apparent that Ifa was suffering from a ruptured abscess that had enmeshed itself to the pancreas and other organs, and that there was nothing that could be done. True to her independent personality, Ifa passed away on Thursday, August 18, 2016 after giving us only one day’s notice that anything at all was wrong. Prior to this ordeal, she was working hard on a new cue—“reach for the stars”—We are all going to miss our little star dearly.
To honor Ifa, who left us on her own terms, but did so at such a young age, we are raising money for a mature tree to be planted in what will become part of a fox den expansion. This tree will not only provide shade to the animals and humans who sit beneath it, but will also honor the magnificent arboreal grey foxes, who watch us from above. If you are interested in donating to the tree fund, or fox den expansion, please visit shop.wolfpark.org and specify ‘Ifa Memorium’ under donations.