COSTA MESA — Pressured by the governor and hundreds of animal lovers, state wildlife officials agreed Wednesday to move a family of foxes living alongside a new stretch of freeway to the Los Angeles Zoo--only if the animals can be caught safely.
The two adult foxes, one yearling and six pups were found last week in a den they built on an embankment of a new extension of the Costa Mesa Freeway that is expected to open to traffic Tuesday.
State wildlife officials had planned to leave the foxes alone, saying they had lived safely alongside freeways for several years and that the animals should decide for themselves where to move when traffic appears.
Then state Sen. Marian Bergeson (R-Newport Beach) pressured the agency to move them, and Gov. Pete Wilson directed the director of the agency in Sacramento to consider options.
The governor's office and the director of the state Department of Fish and Game decided Wednesday that capturing the red foxes is the preferred option. State-hired trappers must first determine whether that can be done without harming them. A decision is expected today.
In the past two days, the Fish and Game agency's Long Beach office has received an estimated 700 calls demanding that the foxes be moved.
"We were hoping they could just be left alone," said Rolph Mall, deputy regional director for the Fish and Game Department. "But this is the people talking. People don't want to see that happen."
Michael Dee, curator of mammals at the Los Angeles Zoo, said that he offered to take the foxes, at least temporarily, because he received so many "frantic" phone calls from animal lovers.