Two foxes attack man
[Reprinted from original]
WOOLWICH — Two foxes attacked and bit a Woolwich man doing working in his backyard on Nequasset Pines Road Thursday.
James Collins, 79, said he was weed wacking when he was knocked to the ground by two young foxes. Collins estimated they were about five or six months old.
“One fox grabbed my muck boots and it tried to drag me away,” he said. “I was lying on the ground trying to keep the weed wacker between me and the fox.”
Collins said he struck one fox several times until it ran away. He was able to get to his back steps, where the second fox charged at him.
“I looked down about 100 yards and I could see him running towards me,” he said. “The young fox made a beeline for me like a shark through water, and foxes don’t do that. For some reason they were very aggressive and weren’t scared of humans.”
Collins said he struck the fox multiple times with a cane until both animals ran away toward a brook beyond his backyard, where he believes their den is located. He said he has seen the young foxes several times around his home, but they’ve never been aggressive before.
He was bitten several times on his arms and legs and received medical treatment for rabies, though Collins said the animals didn’t look rabid “because they had coordination, but we have to at least suspect they have rabies.”
Foxes don’t normally approach people, let alone show aggression toward them. When they do, it’s a common indicator that the animal is rabid, Scott Lindsay, a regional wildlife biologist at the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, told the Times Record in an earlier interview.
It’s impossible to confirm whether an animal is infected with rabies while it is alive because brain tissue needs to be tested.
Woolwich didn’t see any rabid animals last year and has seen only one — a raccoon in March — so far this year, according to the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
Mark Latti, communications directors of the IF&W, said wildlife is common in the area and seeing a fox walk through your yard shouldn’t be cause for concern. However, residents should feed their pets indoors and eliminate other food sources such as bird feeders, to discourage animals from coming near your home.
“If people see foxes or raccoons in the area acting strangely like walking in circles or acting lethargic, those are signs that there’s some type of neurological issue going on and should be reported,” said Latti.
Rabies is transmitted primarily through bites and exposure to saliva or spinal fluid from an infected animal. It infects the nervous system of mammals, making the infected animal unusually aggressive. Vaccines are 100 percent effective in combating the disease in humans. Rabies is fatal if left untreated.
Collins’ experience is all too familiar to the 18 Bath residents and pets who were attacked by rabid foxes last year. The Maine CDC confirmed 16 cases of rabies in Bath in 2019, compared to two in 2018 and none from 2015 to 2017.
The sudden rise in rabies cases led the city to partner with the U.S. Department of Agriculture to trap species known to carry rabies, such as gray and red foxes, skunks and raccoons. The trapping program was designed to reduce the density of animal species that may carry rabies, lowering the chances of a human or pet coming into contact with a rabid animal.
The controversial program cost the city $26,611. Twenty-four raccoons and four skunks were caught in Bath and euthanized, but no foxes. None of the animals caught were carrying rabies.