New fox attacks intensify rabies scare in Brunswick and midcoast

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Brunswick police say a 5-year-old girl, three adults and a dog were attacked and injured by a fox Friday afternoon on Moody Road, the latest in a series of encounters with rabid animals in Brunswick and the midcoast this summer.

The Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention has counted 42 confirmed cases of rabies so far this year, not including the incidents Friday. Of the 42, seven have occurred in the Midcoast area, including four encounters in Brunswick with aggressive, rabid animals. In addition, there has been one confirmed case of rabies each in Bowdoin, Lisbon and Lisbon Falls.

The Maine Warden Service received a report at about 2:30 p.m. Friday of a mangy fox with foam on its mouth on an outdoor deck on Sergeant Lane.

Brunswick police Cmdr. Mark Waltz said a game warden was responding about an hour later when police received a call saying a 5-year-old child had been bitten by a fox on Moody Road, the first of several reports from that area Friday.

The girl’s mother was bitten when she tried to help her daughter.

Brooke Pisarsky said her children were outside playing when her son started screaming and pounding at the door.

“I ran out the side door and wrestled the fox away from my daughter,” she said. “It just wanted to keep biting.”

They were taken to Mid Coast Hospital by ambulance.

Alex Hallet, with daughters Sybil, 5, and Fiona, 8, talks Monday about last week’s fox attacks on Moody Road in Brunswick. “It’s definitely scary,” he said.

A fox attack was reported a short time later at a nearby home.

Steve Imperato, who was not home at the time, said his daughter saw two of their chickens run around to the front of the house, and her boyfriend saw a fox pinning down another chicken against the house. The boyfriend tried to scare it away but the fox went after him so he punched and kicked at it, and was scratched, Imperator said.

Imperato’s female sheepdog then came around from the back of the house “and all of a sudden the fox jumped on her and started to tangle with her,” Imperato said. The boyfriend got the fox off the dog, “and then they ran up on the deck to get away from the fox.”

Two of his four chickens were killed, Imperato said. The dog had been vaccinated for rabies.

There were other people in the emergency room from the Moody Road attacks when he, his daughter and her boyfriend got there, Imperato said.

One of them, Latifa Raqib, had been sitting in a chair by the garage near her garden on Moody Road when the fox attacked her. She fought the animal for nearly four minutes before she was able to grab a nearby bucket and hit the fox with it until it ran. Police arrived and eventually shot the fox in her backyard.

Raqib was bleeding from wounds on both legs. Her daughter took her to the hospital, where she was treated for rabies exposure. She had another shot Monday morning and was still waiting to hear if the fox tested positive for rabies.

Raqib wasn’t letting the incident keep her inside though.

“What can I do?” she said. “This is nice weather.”

Two houses down, Alex Hallett got his two cats and the dog inside after he got a text Friday afternoon from a neighbor warning there had been a fox attack nearby.

About 45 minutes later he saw it run across his back yard into a shed. He tried to trap it in the shed but the fox emerged before he had the chance.

Hallett has three daughters ages 3, 5 and 8 who are always outside, so the incidents are concerning. For the next week he probably won’t let the girls play alone outside.

“It’s definitely scary,” he said.

Pisarsky said her daughter is recovering and she herself sustained relatively minor injuries.

“You kind of feel like your yard is a sanctuary and this certainly destroys that notion,” she said. “I am more on guard than I ever thought I would need to be, and peering into the woods looking for beady little eyes.”

Waltz said all four of those attacked Friday will be treated for possible exposure to rabies. He said there is no way to know for sure if the fox that police killed was behind all the attacks.

Thousands of oral rabies vaccine baits will be distributed by air and land later this week in a state campaign to reduce wildlife rabies in Maine. The bait packets are specifically aimed at reducing the incidence of raccoon rabies, Ricker Hamilton, commissioner for the Maine Department of Health and Human Services, said Monday in a news release. There were 67 confirmed cases of rabies in Maine last year.

He said 351,000 bait packets will be distributed in northeastern Maine between Wednesday and Sunday over a 2,400-acre area, including Mars Hill and Houlton, Oxbow, Patten and Stacyville. Airplanes will drop the packets over wooded regions.

However, the release makes no mention of any bait drops in southern Maine.

The frequency of attacks in Brunswick has raised concerns.

On June 13, a rabid skunk got into a fight with a dog on High Street before an animal control officer was able to capture the skunk.

Later that week, a fox attacked Barbara Seneca, 72, on Woodland Drive while she was getting her mail, biting her on the legs and arms. A neighbor, Phillip Allred, intervened, pinning the fox until police arrived and shot the animal. That fox later tested positive for rabies.

Robert Galen, a 95-year-old Brunswick man, killed another rabid fox on June 25 after it approached him aggressively on Breckan Road. The man clubbed the animal to death with a broken wooden plank.

On June 29, Brandon Radzilowski was approached in a backyard on Bouchard Drive by a fox acting aggressively. He killed the animal with a shovel, and it also tested positive for rabies.

Waltz said Monday that there is little police can do other than try to educate residents.

“In our mind, we already put the word out so I think if we sent out another warning for another incident, people may think (rabies is) only in a certain area,” Waltz said.

The incidents haven’t occurred in any one part of town, or even just in rural areas. Waltz advised people to follow the tips that police have issued to help protect residents and their pets against wild animals who may be infected with rabies. For example don’t leave food outside that may attract wild animals, and make sure pets aren’t left outside unattended.

Since the attacks last month, “It’s hard to say if the prevalence has gone up or down,” Waltz said Monday.

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