Beware of what the fox says

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Warning: Graphic images within

My granddaughter was attacked by a gray fox during the day, very near our home in rural Upstate New York. Luckily, I was there to chase it away immediately, even though it kept trying to come back and bite her or me again. Since I had on work boots and jeans, I didn’t sustain any scratches or bites.

My wife took our granddaughter to the local emergency room for treatment. Not knowing if the fox was rabid or not, they started the rabies protocol. The doctor did warn us that you should always start treatment if there is any doubt about whether an animal is rabid or not. Rabies is 100% fatal if untreated.

I returned to where the attack occurred later in the afternoon and the fox came right out after me again. I dispatched it with my firearm, and using gloves, I carried it back to our house. It was placed in a garbage bag and put in our freezer to wait for the county health department to pick it up for testing. It was a very healthy-looking young male fox and other than its abnormal behavior, it looked perfectly normal.

The health department retrieved the fox for testing the next day and told us it was rare for them to get a report of a rabid gray fox. They had several calls over the weekend for raccoons, bats and squirrels, but our fox was a first.

We were notified two days later that the fox was indeed rabid but our granddaughter was well into her third round of shots. The good news is if she gets bit again, she has already been vaccinated so treatment is much less involved. Rabies shots are now administered in the shoulder and consist of a protocol of five shots spaced out over a week and a half – so no more painful shots in the stomach area.

When in doubt, always get the rabies vaccine

My granddaughter has healed fine but still makes me take a baseball bat when we walk in the woods to ward off rabid foxes!

  • Signs of rabies: According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, animals with rabies may show a variety of signs, including fearfulness, aggression, excessive drooling, difficulty swallowing, staggering, paralysis and seizures. Aggressive behavior is common, but rabid animals may also be uncharacteristically affectionate. Horses and livestock with rabies may also exhibit depression, self-mutilation or increased sensitivity to light. Rabid wild animals may lose their natural fear of humans, and display unusual behavior – for example, an animal that is usually only seen at night may be seen wandering in the daytime (like this gray fox, which is normally nocturnal or crepuscular, meaning it’s generally more active in the twilight hours).

by Bruce Button

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