A fox cub’s life was saved by workmen in Haywards Heath after they rescued him from sewage.
The cub, which was only a few months old, was likely to have been stuck in a septic tank for eight to 12 hours before it was found by Southern Water workmen at their work site near Ardingly College last Wednesday.
The men rescued the fox by getting a noose of rope round his body and pulling him up. They then took him straight to Cootes Vets in Gatehouse Lane, Burgess Hill.
Aimee Crompton, a nurse at the vet practice, said at around 10am a workman delivered the cub in a box with his work jacket laid over the top to keep the smell contained.
She said: “He was covered top to toe with sewage. It stunk something rancid.
“They said they spotted him quite far down one of the holes and he was terrified and frozen in shock.”
Aimee said vet Nicky Jennings checked the fox by eye.
Aimee said: “We didn’t worry about touching him because he was obviously in a state of shock and terrified about being around humans.”
They put him in isolation to ensure he did not contaminate any other areas and to keep the smell away from the rest of the practice.
She added: “He was just wishing he could get out but he needed some TLC and then he could be let back out into the wild.”
East Sussex Wildlife Rescue and Ambulance Service (WRAS) picked up the cub and took him to the Casualty Care Centre at Whitesmith, East Sussex.
They gave him a thorough clean and dry before he was bedded down and allowed to recover in a pen for a few days to ensure he did not become ill.
Trevor Weeks MBE, founder and operations director at WRAS, said this was a very unusual rescue operation for them and they were not sure exactly how the inexperienced fox had become stuck in the tank.
Mr Weeks named the fox Sherman, inspired by Sherman Tanks, because he was found in a septic tank.
WRAS assistant manager Chris Riddington took on the job of cleaning up the poor fox.
Chris said: “He looked so sheepish in his carrier, and I’m sure he didn’t like the smell any more than we did!
“We used nice warm water and gently cleaned him up.
“This has to be the smelliest casualty I’ve had to deal with. ”
The fox was given antibiotics and drops in his eyes and was released back close to where he was found.
The workmen have closed the lid to the tank.
Mr Weeks said: “If he had stayed there he would have starved to death or been poisoned.
“This is a first for us having a fox in a septic tank, we’ve had them in bins, basements, disused swimming pools.
“Foxes are very adventurous and we have had them inside the Martello Tower Museum on Seaford Seafront, in the roof of a mobile phone shop in Hove, and all sorts of places.
“I wouldn’t say they are attracted to smelly or messy places though.
“At this time of year young foxes are getting more adventurous and start getting themselves into trouble as they start venturing further and further away from their den and mum.”