N.J. Woman kills rabid fox after attack: 'I had to do something'

Korin Miller
Writer
Tammy DuBois of New Jersey fought off a fox that attacked her in broad daylight. Here’s what to do if you find yourself in a similar situation. (Photo: Getty Images)

A woman in New Jersey is on the mend after being attacked by a rabid fox.

Tammy DuBois was outside her home checking a bird feeder on July 18 when she heard a rustling sound in the bushes, NJ.com reports. Suddenly, a fox ran out of the bushes and jumped up against her leg while making yipping sounds.

“I just backed up,” the 52-year-old said. “It was going crazy, making noises and its mouth was moving.” The fox then circled around DuBois and attacked her, biting her calf on her right leg and then biting her again.

DuBois ran to her door, but the fox followed her. As she tried to open the door, the fox started gnawing on her leg. So DuBois reached down, grabbed its snout, and held it tightly shut. With her other hand, she grabbed the fox’s neck and squeezed.

“It was biting at my leg — I had to do something,” she said. The fox eventually went limp. “I couldn’t do anything else to get it away from me,” she said. “I don’t like to kill anything.”

DuBois left the fox outside, told a neighbor what happened, cleaned her leg, and called her husband, who took her to the ER, where she was put on a two-week series of rabies treatments. An animal control officer collected the fox for testing, and the rabies test came back positive.

Rabies is a deadly virus that can be spread to people through the saliva of infected animals, according to the Mayo Clinic. It’s important to seek medical attention immediately after you’ve been exposed to an animal you suspect is rabid. Once someone starts to show signs of rabies, which include fever, headache, nausea, agitation, confusion, difficulty swallowing, and hallucinations, the disease is almost always fatal, the Mayo Clinic says.

But it can be hard to tell whether an animal has rabies or might be suffering from another disease simply by observing its behavior, wildlife and zoo veterinarian Elizabeth Bunting, VMD, a senior extension associate at the Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine, tells Yahoo Lifestyle.

Rabid animals can often seem tame, and sometimes people will pet or otherwise touch them, she says — but this is a big mistake. “No healthy adult wild animal would allow human contact, so if an animal is approachable, steer clear,” she says. “We advise people to handle the situation as if the animal had rabies, until proven otherwise.”

Some animals are at a higher risk of having rabies, including raccoons, skunks, bats, and foxes, Bunting says. Some raccoons and foxes can become “highly aggressive” when they have the disease, but they can also be aggressive in other situations, such as when they’re defending their young, she points out.

If you suspect an animal that’s near you is rabid, the best thing you can do is avoid it or try to get away from it ASAP, Bunting says, since interacting with the animal increases the odds that it will infect you.

If an animal tries to attack you, “try to fend it off in one way or another,” Tom Cooley, a wildlife biologist at the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, tells Yahoo Lifestyle. “With rabies, the virus is in the saliva, so you don’t want to do anything that’s going to make you come into contact with the mouth of that animal.” If there’s anything nearby that you can use to fend the animal off with, like a broom or shovel, try to grab that and use it for protection. “That would be the best thing to do,” Cooley says. 

If the animal does bite you, wash your wound thoroughly with soap and water for at least five minutes — that can help kill the virus that causes rabies, Bunting says. Then, get to your doctor or local ER as soon as you can. You can also contact your local health department for advice — the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has a list of contact information for every state.

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