Norman Kenney, retired Bath Fire Chief, was attacked by a fox at his home on Friday. (Contributed photo)

An 87-year-old Bath man is warning his neighbors to be careful after a fox attacked him on Friday, the latest in a spate of rabies scares across the Bath and Brunswick area in recent years. 

Retired Bath Fire Chief Norman Kenney was behind his house on Getchell Street — a couple of blocks north of Maine Maritime Museum — in south Bath around noon on Friday when he saw what he thought was a cat heading toward him.

Realizing that it was too big to be a cat, and that it was actually a fox, he stood still, initially thinking the animal would go away. He must have moved a little bit, he said Saturday, and the fox came running at him and grabbed his pant leg. 

“It was shaking and shaking the thing,” he said.

He kicked at the fox, but it kept lunging back at him. At one point he “got dizzy and fell down” but was able to get back up before the fox came after him again. 

“I kicked it two or three times, and thought, ‘I’ve gotta kill this thing somehow,’ but I didn’t have a stick or anything on me,” he said.

Kenney has had two knee replacements, his granddaughter Rashell Thompson said, and has a cane, but he did not have it on him in his yard. 

Eventually, Kenney was able to get his foot on the fox and put his weight on its neck to kill it. 

He called his grandson-in-law, Tristan Koehling, who called the police. The fox, which Kenney said he thinks was still quite young, was sent to Augusta to be tested for rabies.

Results are expected back sometime next week. 

“It wasn’t frothing at the mouth, there was no (physical) indication that it was rabid,” he said, “but it’s actions seemed like that.” 

Rabies is a viral disease that infects the nervous system of mammals. It is transmitted primarily through bites and exposure to saliva or spinal fluid from an infected animal. The disease, which is ultimately fatal, attacks the nervous system, making the infected animal unusually aggressive.

As of Aug. 14, Bath Police had seen seven rabies cases this year, up from two last year and none in 2017. Police could not be reached for comment over the weekend.

Kenney said doctors did not find any puncture marks on his legs where the fox latched on, something he chalks up to the fox’s small mouth and the quality of his denim jeans. 

Thompson said she was “shocked” by what happened. Her grandfather is a family man, she said, with more than 50 grandchildren, great grandchildren and great great grandchildren, and is the oldest living member of his church. She said she was impressed with his composure in the face of the attack, and said she probably would have been screaming for help.

“I talked to him this morning and he said he kind of just did what he had to,” she said. “He tried to just kick it away at first. … It was just a pup and he didn’t want to hurt it, but he didn’t have a choice.”

Earlier this summer, a rabid fox attacked a 6-year-old girl on Bumpy Hill Road in Bath. 

Julia Davis of Bath was playing outside at a friend’s house when the fox attacked and chased her into the home. Davis was bitten on the leg before the homeowner chased it outside, where it was killed by the homeowner’s dog.

Kenney has seen a mother fox and her two kits in his neighborhood before, and suspects it was one of the kits who attacked him. If one fox had it, other animals may too, he said. He is urging his neighbors to be careful when working in their gardens or walking outside. 

“Walk quietly and carry a big stick,” he said. 

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