Saved by Norfolk animal lovers - the fox cubs dumped in a ditch and left to die

Just weeks old, they were close to death when they were found huddled in two barrels and a sack. Now almost all of the 18 fox cubs discovered in the Fens on Easter Monday are recovering from their ordeal.

Alison Charles has seen some upsetting sights in the 20 years she's run the RSPCA's East Winch Wildlife Centre.

But the bizarre case of three litters of fox cubs found at Swindlers Drove, near Spalding, on Easter Monday is one of the most shocking of all.

At first, it looked like yet another case of the fly-tipping which is endemic in the Fens.

But when RSPCA inspector Jon Knight looked inside the barrels he found five fox cubs in one and a further six in the other. Another seven fox cubs were found inside the sack.

Severly dehydrated and close to death, they were rushed to East Winch, near King's Lynn, to see if Mrs Charles and her staff could save them.

'We had to put one to sleep because it had a fractured skull and a fractured jaw,' she said today.

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'They were very dehydrated when they arrived, but the vet chekced them over and there were no other obvious injuries.

'They're recovering really well and the next stage is get them out to the release pens. They have to be kept as wild as possible for when we release them.'

Mrs Charles said the cubs were believed to be from three different litters - begging the obvious question who had captured them and for what purpose, before the animals were unceremoniously dumped.

'It's really shocking,' she said. 'I've been here 20 years and I've never seen anything like it.'

Insp Knight said the barrels were screw topped, but had holes in the top of them. The sack was tied with string.

Three bags of shredded rubbish were also left at the scene and contained soiled shredded paper and bird and rabbit remains.

A fourth bag with maggot infested bird remains was also found.

It is thought that the fox cubs may have been kept in captivity prior to being abandoned because the shredded paper left next to them was soaked with fox urine.

'This was one of the most distressing incidents I have ever been involved with,' said Insp Knight.

'I could not believe my eyes when I saw the poor fox cubs crammed together inside the barrels and the sack.

'Had they not been discovered then it is clear they would have perished very quickly. They could hardly move, and obviously had no access to food and water.

'Whoever has done this should not be allowed to get away with it, which is why I am appealing to anyone in the Spalding, Fenland and greater Peterborough area, or even further afield to get in touch.

'We need to find the person responsible and we need the public to help us. Therefore anyone with any information, no matter how small is urged to call the RSPCA cruelty line on 0300 1234 999. Calls can be made anonymously and we hope someone out there will provide us with the key piece of information which will help us with this investigation.'

The RSPCA has just one location in East Anglia - a closely-guarded secret - where it can release foxes with the consent of a farmer and neighbouring landowners, When ready, the cubs will be taken there.

Mrs Charles said until then, staff were feeding them on dog food and chicks - and any roadkill found around the centre.

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