An eagle-eyed worker at Severn Trent’s sewage treatment works in Coalport Road, Madeley, Telford, alerted the RSPCA when he spotted the frightened vixen in the corner of the tank, standing in three inches of rainwater.
A pallet was lowered into the tank for the fox to stand on before RSPCA inspector Claire Davey arrived to try and catch her. Initially it was thought the officer would have to climb down into the pit using her ladder, but an access door at the back of the tank was unlocked, allowing her to get inside and safely secure the animal using a grasper.
The cold and bedraggled vixen, who had some heavily bleeding claws, was then transferred to Cuan Wildlife Rescue in Much Wenlock, where she settled down for the night with a large bowl of food.
The following day she was sedated and examined more closely by the centre’s vet. Because she was found close by, the vixen was scanned for a microchip to see if she was a fox they had encountered before.
Vets may microchip foxes coming into their care for post-release monitoring purposes.
Dani Peat, senior wildlife care assistant at the rescue centre said: “We were really surprised to see she was one of our fox cubs who we’d released back in July! What were the chances?
“After her examination, it was quickly determined that there was no lasting damage; her claws were all intact, she was healthy and probably had just needed bed and food for the night.”
The vixen was collected again by Claire last Friday and re-released back in the countryside near the site of the rescue.
Claire said: “We think she’d probably been stuck in the tank no longer than 24 hours but it was wet and cold and must have been a thoroughly unpleasant experience for her. It was also a fairly substantial drop, so she was very fortunate to escape more serious injury.
“Returning an animal like this back into the wild is always one of the best parts of my job and I’m really grateful to Neil Jones at Severn Trent for reporting the incident to us so promptly, and to the team at Cuan Wildlife Rescue for the care and rehabilitation they gave her.
"I’m sure they were a little surprised to see her back again, but no doubt relieved she’s had another happy ending.”
Neil added: “We’ve got a disused water tank on the site that I walk past every day and always have a glance in. Luckily the tank only had a few inches of water in it, but the poor fox was in the corner looking terrified and absolutely frozen.
“There was no way she could have got out by herself, so we called the RSPCA and lowered a pallet into the tank so that she could get out of the water. The inspector was fantastic and had the fox out of the tank really quickly. We’re all really pleased that she's OK and back out in the wild.”