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Furry Friends

Furry Friends

Natural gas pipeline employees help save red foxes near project

Two red foxes have retained their beautiful -- and essential -- fur coats thanks to the care and commitment of Consumers Energy employees working on the South Oakland Macomb Network pipeline project.

The employees noticed the foxes appeared to be suffering from mange, a skin disease caused by mites that results in fur loss and eventual starvation. It causes eyes to crust over and constant itching which prevents foxes from hunting. The disease is widespread among Michigan red foxes and typically kills them within two to four months of infection.

Red foxes were frequent curious visitors during 2019 construction along the South Oakland Macomb Network, a $200 million pipeline enhancement project in Oakland and Macomb counties.

A full-time environmental consultant, Adam Fisher, was an integral member of the project team. He and other pipeline employees took continual care to help protect foxes and other animals they encountered, including preserving critical red fox winter denning habitats during construction and restoration work.

“Pipeline crews are generally pretty tough due to the nature of the work, but they also have tender hearts,” Fisher said. “They accepted the red foxes as mascots on this project. Any time someone saw one they let me know. The foxes were curious and often checked up on us, our equipment and even the pipeline itself before it was installed.”

Monitoring and medication

red foxFisher said the team became concerned when two foxes began losing large areas of fur and suffered frightening weight loss. The team started a mange treatment program recommended by a Michigan Department of Natural Resources-licensed wildlife rehabilitator. This effort required continuous direct monitoring during feeding attempts to ensure only the foxes received the medication.

Project-installed trail cameras and field sightings delivered the wonderful news that treatment efforts resulted in regrowth of fur coats and fluffy tails for two of the project’s favorite foxes.

“We were happy to play a role in helping ensure that at least two of these beautiful animals are healthy and warm going into the cold winter months,” Fisher said.

Committed to protecting the planet

Other efforts undertaken by Consumers Energy project employees included relocating garter snakes, installing “turtle fence” to prevent protected reptiles from entering work areas, scheduling tree-cutting in winter to avoid harm to bats, and protecting an active woodcock nesting area within the pipeline path until the babies fledged.

The project also plans to create 1.5 acres of butterfly and honeybee habitat reserve in the spring on the pipeline right-of-way south of 23 Mile Road near an existing Consumers Energy pipeline valve site. It will surround a wetland complex that was seeded separately with a Michigan native wetland seed mix.

To learn more about the South Oakland Macomb Network project, visit www.ConsumersEnergy.com/pipelineproject.