A friendly pet fox named Notchi has gone missing from his Lakeville home and is gallivanting across southern Minnesota, despite multiple run-ins with humans, a social media campaign and a $1,000 reward for his return.
Notchi, a tame, 8-month-old red fox, was rescued from a fur farm as a kit by Mikayla Raines, 21, who has a USDA license to keep foxes. Notchi has distinctive silver and white markings because foxes used for fur often are bred over generations for unique colors.
Foxes generally make poor pets, Raines said, because they mark their territory and chew things up.
“There’s just a special bond that I have with foxes that I can’t explain,” Raines said. “You have to work hard to bond with a fox, but I like the challenge.”
More than 50 people have spotted Notchi traipsing from Lonsdale to Waseca, Owatonna to Pemberton, and other southern Minnesota locales since he escaped from an outdoor enclosure Jan. 1, just days before a neutering appointment. Foxes usually stay within a fifty mile radius, but Notchi already has a wider range than that and is moving westward, Raines said.
“It is mating season, so that’s why we think he’s going a little farther than he’d usually go,” said Sandi Raines, Mikayla’s mom. “He hasn’t found his girl yet.”
Soon after his escape, Notchi was seen eating roadkill in Cannon Lake. He later approached a couple in Pemberton and tried to get in their pickup truck, but the couple was heading to church and didn’t know where to put him. Another time, Notchi was hanging out near someone’s patio door, hoping to get inside.
He travels up to 20 miles a day. Most recently, he’s been spied in Mapleton, Waldorf and Minnesota Lakes.
“We always seem to be a day behind him,” Sandi Raines said.
A social media star
Mikayla Raines has detailed Notchi’s disappearance on Instagram and started a Facebook group called Retrieving Notchi. Both are filled with pictures of the 8-pound fox, who looks like a grinning gray terrier with oversized ears and a bushy, white-tipped tail.
One Notchi-themed Facebook post was shared more than 2,000 times, Mikayla Raines said.
Devon Thomas Treadwell, who specializes in finding lost dogs with the group the Retrievers, also is on the lookout, though she’s never searched for a fox before.
“I felt like a pet fox would have enough canine behaviors that it would be similar to our methods that we use,” Treadwell said.
Notchi is different because he’s not settling in one place like dogs do, Treadwell said.
Mikayla Raines and Treadwell have set live traps, posted signs and set up a trail camera to find Notchi. They recently tried using an electronic lure, a device used by hunters that creates fox-friendly sounds, like the squeal of a rabbit in distress. But still no Notchi.
The biggest threats to Notchi’s safety, Treadwell said, are cars, coyotes and being shot, especially if he gets into a farmer’s hen house.
“It feels like the clock is ticking on him,” Treadwell said.
People on social media have chipped in $1,000 as a reward for Notchi’s return.
It’s helpful that people are looking for Notchi, Treadwell said, but she doesn’t want multiple people to descend on him at once.
If someone recognizes Notchi, they should be gentle, avoid eye contact and let him approach them. They can try throwing treats at him, luring him into a fenced area or even setting a live trap.
“I do believe I’m going to get him back,” Mikayla Raines said.