Sunday, December 18, 2011

Fox with Suspected Rabies

Friday night, Clint and I were headed out in his car. When we got about 1/4 mile from our house, I spotted a fox laying down in the gravel on the side of the road. I asked Clint to back up in case it had been hit. The fox did not hide or run away. It walked slowly in front of our car like it was disoriented and then sat there hassling and salivating. Then it walked away from us heading straight down the road. Then it turned around and came back. It seemed very confused. Thanks to our rural upbringing, we recognized this and other signs as "passive" rabies (aka "dumb" rabies.) This is why they tell you to stay away from wildlife. If you can approach it, something is most likely wrong! (The Cujo type rabies that attacks is called "aggressive" rabies.)

Concerned for our children, community, wildlife and pets, we called a neighbor who lives very close to where the fox was so he could bring a gun to put it down. He wasn't home. So we called our son, Brandon, who brought our gun. While we waited, we watched the fox alternate between wandering back and forth in the road in front of us and laying in the grass. There is no doubt in our minds that fox had rabies.

Being very slow in my cast, I sat in the car while Clint got the gun and loaded it while standing in the road between the cars. That, of course, is when the fox came out again. It stared, not moving, at Clint, and I yelled him a warning so he'd be aware in case it attacked. The gun wasn't ready. That is the last thing I remember. The next thing I know, I was fighting to keep the car on the road yelling "Did I get it?!!!" It seems I went on auto pilot, got my bulky cast through the tight space between the steering wheel and the seat, put the car in gear, and ran the fox over just off the road. While I am surprised at how fast instinct took over, I don't feel bad about it. Rabies had already claimed the fox. An animal doesn't come back from that. I just stopped the virus from spreading.

Clint finished it off quickly. I am thankful and relieved it didn't get away where it could harm people and other animals.

A few months ago, Brandon told me I was "a sweet and gentle person, and hurting something just isn't in [my] nature." When I took off in the car, Clint said Brandon looked at him in amazement and asked "Did SHE just run over it?!!! Mom did that?!!" Hey, it surprised me too!

We called Animal Control. They said unless the fox had bitten someone, there isn't anything they can do other than make note of it in case they have more reports in our area. The Health Department will not pay to do the $300 testing unless a person has been attacked. As a precaution, Clint and I are re-vaccinating all of our livestock and pets.