NORTH KINGSTOWN — A pair of fox brothers, starving and dehydrated when they were rescued this spring, did so well in their recovery that they were returned to the wild ahead of schedule, according to the veterinarian who nursed them back to health.

The only two survivors from an orphaned litter, the foxes were released Monday evening into a remote wooded area of Saunderstown, according to Chi Chan, a veterinarian who volunteers for the Wildlife Rehabilitators Association of Rhode Island. 

"We usually release them a little later," Chan said. "They actually looked humongous compared to my previous years' foxes. I figured they were ready."

The tiny foxes were just three to four weeks old when they and two siblings were rescued in late March from their den under a porch in North Kingstown. Chan brought the four foxes home with her, feeding them formula first through a tube then through a syringe, but two didn't survive the first critical days.

The surviving brothers were later moved to the association’s clinic, where they lived together in a pen similar to a dog run. Once they were able to feed themselves, humans limited their contact.

"We don't do anything with them because I want them to be wild," Chan said.

At the clinic, the kits would play together and, when it was time to sleep, often curl up together in the corner. In the wild, the brothers will likely to stay together for a while before going their separate ways, Chan said. To ease the animals' transition into the woods, food will be left out for them for a week or two.

Chan estimates that the foxes weighed 10 to 15 pounds when they were released and were about three-quarters as big as a full-grown fox. The foxes bolted from their carriers as soon as they were released. Still, Chan expects them to stay near the release area at first but travel farther away as they gain more confidence.

She said, "They can hunt, so they will be hunting."

Now that the foxes have been released, Chan has no way to monitor their fate.

— jperry@providencejournal.com

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On Twitter: @jgregoryperry