A state wildlife biologist reports increased sightings of foxes in the region are normal for this time of year as pups are leaving their dens in search of a little independence. And although most are healthy, it’s best for humans to stay as far away as possible.
A Schuylerville man was attacked by a rabid fox on a beach in Greenwich recently.
Richard Leddy, 40, said he was lying on the town beach reading when he heard someone in the water say, “Oh look, there’s a fox.”
“I thought they meant on the other bank, but then I heard a snarl and looked over to see the fox in mid-leap,” Leddy said. “Next think I knew he’d sunk his teeth into my arm.”
He said he grabbed the animal and pulled it off and then held it away from his body with both hands, one under the jaw to keep it from biting again and the other around the fox’s neck.
“I had three puncture wounds and the blood was dripping down my arm but I held on until the police got there,” he said.
The police shot the fox and testing on the animal later found it was rabid.
Leddy said he had already started the treatment for rabies before knowing the test results.
He received eight shots the first day and will take a series of three more to complete the preventative vaccines against rabies.
DEC Wildlife Biologist Gordon Batchellor said foxes, skunks and raccoons are most likely to pass rabies as they live in close quarters.
“Rabies is a cyclic phenomenon with animals eventually dying off,” he said. “We don’t have an epidemic this year.”
Batchellor said this year is normal for fox populations in the area.
“The weather doesn’t play a role for mammals as it can with birds,” he said. “Population trends are more driven by habitat conditions.”
Although foxes are mostly nocturnal, the adults can be active at any time of day during this time of the year when they have to catch food for their young, he said.
“There may be reports of large numbers of foxes now because people are getting a sense of the local population as the adults work overtime to feed growing pups and the pups are starting to spend more time out of the den,” Batchellor said. “It looks like the pups are playing, but they are getting rough with each other as training for being strong, quick and alert for survival.”
He said foxes are generally lazy when it comes to finding a home to give birth and raise the very young.
“They like to take over an abandoned woodchuck dens,” he said. “Getting close to one might be noticed first because of the pungent smell. There will be leftover food lying around and the odor can be pretty bad.”
He said any indication that foxes are near is a signal to leave the area.
DEC spokewoman Maureen Wren said foxes feed mostly on small prey including mice, nestling birds or frogs, but they will chase or stalk larger prey like rabbits, grouse, turkeys, ducks, geese, woodchucks, or house cats.
“The most commonly observed stalking occurs in late June or July, sometimes in rural or suburban backyards,” she said.