Who's Freddy the fox, and why is he captivating Bartlett residents?

A hapless red fox has become a neighborhood celebrity in Bartlett.

Fondly nicknamed "Freddy," the fox has a unique accessory that has caught the attention of many residents: a plastic drain pipe stuck around his neck.

Larry Paxson first spotted him in mid-September while on a walk with his wife. It was then that he began making calls to the Bartlett police and the Kane Area Rehabilitation and Education for Wildlife.

Before that, however, Freddy had already been known to some. He frequented backyards and had become accustomed to people.

Paxson said Freddy definitely has a personality of his own.

"He's not shy," Paxson said. "Everybody in Bartlett knows about this fox."

Paxson eventually got in contact with Ty Holden, a professional trapper at Wildlife Police Inc. Together, they began managing a trap to try to capture Freddy so that they could free him of that plastic pipe. They moved the trap around to different areas Freddy frequented.

Freddy was too smart. He really is "sly as a fox," Paxson said.

"I originally thought this was going to be a one-week adventure," he said.

It has now been nine months.

The two men considered a tranquilizer, but they were worried the fox might run off into an area where they'd be unable to find him.

While it is mostly Paxson and Holden donating their time and resources, many village residents have made it their mission to report sightings of Freddy.

The "Find Freddy the Fox Bartlett Illinois" Facebook page has more than 1,500 followers. People share photos and locations they've seen Freddy.

"I'm a friendly guy, but I don't go out of my way to talk to people," Paxson said. "But I've talked to well over 100 people in Bartlett while chasing this fox."

In early spring, Freddy and his "girlfriend," who remind Paxson of the Disney movie "Lady and the Tramp," had a litter of five kits. Paxson and Holden continued to set their trap, until they caught one of the kits.

Now, the men are at a bit of a standstill until the kits are old enough to take care of themselves.

Robert Schuman, the wildlife operations manager at the Fox Valley Wildlife Center, said Freddy likely will stay with his offspring through the fall.

When foxes get objects stuck around their necks, they are often still mobile, Schuman said. This makes any kind of intervention difficult.

Luckily, because Freddy has lived for months with the drain pipe, it is unlikely to be hindering his ability to eat and breathe. Schuman said his biggest concern, however, is the possibility of lesions and infection, as the pipe rubs against the fox's neck.

The most helpful thing people can do to prevent more wildlife getting caught by human objects is keep yard clutter to a minimum, Schuman said.

Paxson continues to keep up with Freddy and his family. He has a camera set up at their den.

While it is difficult to catch him in action, Paxson invites anyone to check in with Freddy and his family on Paxson's Facebook page where he regularly shares photos and videos.

Some residents of Bartlett have become very familiar with Freddy the fox, who has a plastic drain pipe stuck around its neck and has eluded capture for nearly a year. Video frame grab courtesy of Linda Thibeau
Freddy the fox has eluded capture for nearly a year in Bartlett. Video frame grab courtesy of Linda Thibeau
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