An Alto woman was bitten twice by a possibly rabid fox that chased her into a house and tried to gnaw through the door.
Lincoln County Sheriff Robert Shepperd said he and Deputy Phillip Wall arrived in the 200 block of Deer Park in Alto north of Ruidoso about 3:30 p.m. Monday, in response to a call about the attack.
The fox still was in the vicinity and charged the two men, but they were able to capture it. The animal subsequently was euthanized by an officer with the New Mexico Game and Fish Department to be tested for rabies, the sheriff said. The biting victim refused emergency transport and was driven to the Lincoln County Medical Center by her husband. Shepperd said he expected her to undergo a series of rabies inoculation shots as a preventative measure.
“It was a wild animal and the shots are not like they used to be (a lengthy, painful series in the stomach area),” he said.
Shepperd said when the woman was chased by the fox, she took off her sweatshirt trying to scare it away, but it latched onto the material and then bit her in the thigh and calf. She fled to an occupied house nearby, “but the fox kept biting and chewing on the door to get into the house,” the sheriff said.
Shepperd said he didn’t feel comfortable shooting the animal in a residential area and Wall just had found a large fishing net in the roadway. They used the net and a catch pole to secure the fox. Fortunately, when Shepperd first heard the call for assistance, he was in the same area as the Game and Fish officer and asked him to follow to the house, where the game officer was able to euthanize the fox. Game and Fish has jurisdiction over fur bearing animals.
Rabies was a death sentence until 1885 when Louis Pasteur and Emile Roux developed the first vaccination. Today, a number of vaccines are safe and effective, according to information about the treatment. The immunity is long-lasting after three doses and is used to prevent rabies and to treat victims for a period of time after exposure to the virus.
Shepperd said wild animals usually are elusive and secretive. One of the keys to a rabid animal is that they are aggressive and not acting in line with their nature, as with the fox. They go from excitable to furious to paralysis.
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