Update: The species of fox found in downtown Modesto's Fox Pub on Wednesday night was misidentified. It is a gray fox, said Donna Burt, director of the Stanislaus Wildlife Care Center in Hughson.
The fox appears to be in good health, though covered in something greasy like vegetable shortening, she said. The plan is to wash it Saturday.
Original Story: So, a fox walks into a bar.
Not just any bar. The Fox Pub.
Waiting for a punch line? You'll have to come up with one, because it's no joke.
A real fox was discovered in downtown Modesto on Wednesday night inside the pub at the corner of 11th and I streets.
Fire and police units were dispatched shortly before 11:30 p.m. But employees of the dining and drinking establishment already had been trying to chase the animal out "for a good while, probably an hour or so," said Modesto Fire Department Battalion Chief Randy Anderson.
The kit fox was heard and then found in a back room. Not surprisingly, it was good at hiding, but Modesto Police Department animal control eventually cornered it and used a snare to capture it, Anderson said. Even the pros needed an hour or more to get hold of the animal.
Apparently, no one saw when or how the fox entered the business, so Anderson had no idea how long it had been inside.
Firefighters called the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, which didn't have anyone in the area, so the capture fell to animal control. The pub was cleared of customers and staff while police went to work.
The kit fox was put in the back of a patrol vehicle and taken to the Stanislaus Animal Services agency shelter, said MPD spokeswoman Sharon Bear. Thursday, it was taken to the Stanislaus Wildlife Care Center in Hughson, she said.
The fox appeared healthy, Anderson said, and while it clearly didn't like people, it was not aggressive. Bear said the animal was covered in grease, though whether it was kitchen grease or auto grease wasn't immediately known. A staffer at the wildlife center said the plan was to sedate the frightened fox so it could be cleaned.
According to the state Fish and Wildlife website, the San Joaquin kit fox once was a thriving species in the 1930s, making its home in native grasslands of the Central Valley. In 1967, the federal government listed the fox as an endangered species, and in 1971, California listed it as threatened. "SJ kit foxes play an important role in the ecosystem," the site says, "but because they are adapting to changes in the landscape that are caused by urban development, sometimes humans find themselves in conflict with this typically shy and fearful animal."
Around Modesto, the foxes tend to follow the Tuolumne River, Anderson said, and it's not unusual to spot them there. How it got into downtown and into the pub is a mystery, though. (Someone call Slylock Fox.)
"We've had animal calls before," Anderson said, "but when you have an animal go into a business that's its namesake, that's weird."