Citizens of Bath are justifiably alarmed regarding ongoing fox attacks, particularly those residents living near the epicenter between High and Washington Streets in the South End. As one participant of a recent City Hall meeting on the issue pointed out, Bath has an exceptionally high proportion of reported rabies cases statewide, near 20%.

That number rises markedly if one includes incidents not reported in the media or confirmed by postmortem testing. His query as to baiting our local animal population to prevent more outbreaks was dismissed by attending officials as too logistically problematic and costly to implement. Their recommendation was for our citizenry to be vigilant and seek medical attention after exposure rather than inoculating humans or wild animals beforehand. Since then, one resident has made national news by becoming the victim of yet a second vicious attack.

The World Health Organization recommends proactive vaccination for anyone residing in or visiting areas of known high risk, a practice routine in many countries. Although post-attack survival here in the U.S is 100% when given prompt treatment, the attack itself is no small matter. Bath’s city clerk ultimately resigned her position in order to recover from injuries sustained in a fox attack where she wasn’t even bitten.

Permanent disfigurement, disability or death resulting from the animal bites themselves is not an alarmist exaggeration of what might await anyone simply going about their normal residential activities here in our once peaceful neighborhoods. Children and the elderly are especially vulnerable. Carrying sticks and pepper spray shouldn’t be an acceptable only recourse to what our officials have determined is an unsolvable crisis.

Some quite reasonable grassroots frustration is suggesting crowdsourcing private funding of baiting or trapping by independent professionals, hopefully with municipal/state oversight. Meanwhile, State Rep. and Bath City Councilor Sean Paulhus is pursuing Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife involvement at its next meeting. Ward 1 Councilperson Phyllis Bailey is similarly resolute that a solution is possible. Hopefully, the entire council will aggressively join them in resolving this all too real and frightening threat.

The time is well at hand for a far more can-do approach to what is a very serious public safety issue that so far hasn’t benefited from what otherwise appears as yet another kick the can approach by an essentially unresponsive governance. Public awareness alone will not solve this problem. Citizens need more protection than just their own individual resourcefulness. Public policy needs to step up to the plate and utilize whatever robust and timely intervention can be accomplished to inoculate, trap, quarantine and subside our community’s disproportionate outbreak of rabies. The difficulty of whatever hurdles need to be surmounted shouldn’t be accepted as another defeatist excuse by those resigned to do nothing.

Gary Anderson lives in Bath.

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