Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Foxes ... Again ...

Since 1996, foxes have attacked four people in New Hanover County. Two of those attacks occurred last week, officials said. The most recent was Saturday evening when a 37-year-old woman fought off a fox that she says bit her three times as she stood outside in an apartment complex near the intersection of Market Street and Gordon Road.

Though the fox has never been found, authorities say its behavior suggests it was likely rabid since healthy wild animals are scared of people. Because the fox hasn’t been found and tested, authorities aren’t certain it was rabid.

But Judy Evonko, a supervisor at New Hanover County Animal Control, said authorities suspect a fox that attacked an adult May 11 on Park Avenue was rabid.

That evening a fox ran from the woods, attacked a person, then fled, Evonko said. The next morning, someone reported a sick-looking fox several blocks away. That fox, which authorities suspect was responsible for the attack, was captured and tested positive for rabies, she said.

The recent pair of fox attacks coincides with a jump in rabies cases in New Hanover County this year, Evonko said.

There “seems to be a rash of them going on right now,” she said of rabies cases. People should stay away from any wild animal, she said, even dogs or cats that don’t have owners around. If an animal bites a person and then runs away, the person will have to get rabies shots, Evonko said.

Stefani Wallace, 37, had to get rabies shots Saturday night after a fox snuck up on her from behind her in the Cape Harbor Apartments and bit her ankle. She wrestled it off and the fox came back two more times. In all, Wallace was bitten on her ankle, finger and toe.

She got five shots, she said, including two in bite wounds.

Wallace said she will need four more shots to complete the treatment. Since the attack, Cape Harbor property managers have sent e-mails and letters telling residents to be cautious, said Wendy Smith, regional manager for Bell Partners, which manages the complex.

Evonko said she only remembers two other fox attacks in New Hanover County before last week. One occurred in Castle Hayne in 1996, she said, and the other was several years ago.

When a fox does attack a person, it’s a sign of sickness and likely rabies, she said.

In New Hanover County, 106 animals have tested positive for rabies since early 1996. Most were raccoons, but rabid bobcats, domestic cats and one puppy have also tested positive, Evonko said.

This year, New Hanover County has found 12 rabid animals, about twice as many as last year.

Brunswick County has had four rabies cases so far this year, which is about average, said Fred Michael, deputy health director at the Brunswick County Health Department.

One of this year’s cases was a fox that bit a woman in January.

Evonko said animal control investigates animal attacks. But when the animal has fled into the woods they don’t go after it. Foxes and raccoons are so common, she said, they wouldn’t know which one was responsible for the attack.

People should have their pets vaccinated, she said, and call animal control if they see a wild animal that looks sick or is acting strange. Signs of rabies are staggering, making a lot of noise, drooling, or biting at the air, she said.

Aggressiveness toward people is another indicator, Michael said. “That’s one of the warning signs,” he said. “If you see an animal that’s acting unusual, and it’s not afraid of you.”

How about, 'Aggressiveness towards people is another indicator ... of our impending doom.'

Once again, I understand that its easy to pass everything off to 'rabid animals', but lets be honest here ... 4 attacks in this town since 1996, and two have been this year? Coincidence, or yet another sign that the animals are in fact rising up, and we, the human race, have only a rather short period of time before we all perish at their hands ... err, paws ... err, hooves ... claws ... fins ... whatever ...

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