ROCHESTER, NY – A rabid fox bit at least six people in Brighton over the weekend. Now those who live in the neighborhood where it happened are worried about the rest of the foxes in the skulk.
“There’s undeveloped land behind us, so they like to hang out there,” Joe Tunis says of the foxes in his Brighton neighborhood. “They had a few kits, babies, hanging around with them when I first saw them.”
Tunis recorded video a few weeks ago when one of the foxes came straight to her back deck and stayed for a while. He and his wife had not seen him again until Friday.
“I was upstairs working and heard my wife screaming,” he recalled. “She was on the back deck like doing garden prep stuff and I came downstairs and she’s like, ‘the fox just bit me.’ She was inside at the time and the fox was outside wandering around, then he kind of ran away.
The bite broke the skin of the woman from Tunis.
“We assumed the kits might be below deck and he felt threatened,” Tunis said.
But, that turned out not to be the case. The fox took off and ended up biting five other people in the neighborhood.
“We started to hear more incidents and a few doors down a child was bitten,” he says.
Brighton Police and Brighton Animal Control responded to the neighborhood on Friday.
“It’s the first time in over 20 years of career that I think we have a rabid animal. We’ve never had something that’s bitten so many people before,” says chef David Catholdi.
The department was able to trap and euthanize the fox. Further tests confirmed he had rabies, so now everyone who has been bitten by him must undergo a series of treatments.
“My wife received a few doses on Friday, the day of the bite. She then had to come back to get a few more doses on Monday, then since the fox was confirmed to have rabies, she has to keep it that way, so she has more doses this Friday, then next Friday,” says Tunis.
The family’s greatest concern, however, is for others.
“There has been a turnover in the neighborhood over the past two years, so there are a lot of young children,” says Tunis.
“I know people have seen foxes in their neighbors since this incident, is it the same family of foxes? Is it another family? We don’t know yet, we have yet to gather some of these facts, which is what we are working with DEC and the Ministry of Health for,” says Chief Catholdi.
In the meantime, Brighton Animal Control Officers have set and checked humane traps in the neighborhood. But it’s really not the best option when it comes to foxes.
“Leg traps, there will be a downside, we’re in a suburban area, we’re setting up leg traps…you run the risk of catching cats or dogs because they’re free-roaming animals. So we have to weigh those concerns,” says Chief Cathodli.
Once he has more answers, he plans to hold a meeting with people who live in the neighborhood, probably early next week.
The Monroe County Public Health Department is urging anyone who has come into physical contact with the fox in the Brighton area in the past week to seek medical attention. And, if they haven’t already, report the incident to the County Rabies Control Program at (585) 753-5171.
Rabies is a viral disease that leads to the death of infected humans or pets if left untreated. People who have not touched the animal are not at risk. To prevent rabies, people should always avoid touching wild animals and have their pets vaccinated against the disease. To learn more and find a free Monroe County rabies vaccination clinic near you, click here.