BRUNSWICK — A fox attacked a Brunswick man in his Oak Street backyard Thursday morning, and then attacked the animal control officer who came to investigate, according to police.

The homeowner told officers that he was outside in his yard at around 10:30 a.m. when the fox, presumed to be rabid, attacked. On Saturday, the state Centers for Disease Control confirmed the fox was rabid, according to police.

Chief Scott Stewart said the man “saw the fox approaching, it came right at him and even jumped up at him at one point.” The man was able to kick the animal away, but it came back twice, kicked away each time, before he was able to retreat and call 911, Stewart said.

A police officer and the animal control officer arrived and found the fox still in the backyard, at which point it attacked the animal control officer, lunging toward her, Stewart said. The fox was killed. The animal cannot be tested for rabies because the brain was damaged when it was killed, Stewart said.

Police are not releasing the name or address of the man who was attacked.

According to the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention, only one animal from Brunswick, a grey fox, has tested positive for rabies this year, but at Stewart said that not all suspected rabid animals have been tested.

According to police, on June 21, a fox charged a homeowner on Stetson Road and was killed.

Just six days later, Brunswick Police responded to a report of a fox foaming at the mouth and charging at vehicles on McClellan Street, but the fox was hit by a car before officers arrived on the scene.

Brunswick saw an influx of rabies incidents in 2018, with seven people attacked by rabid foxes in between June and July of that year — including four on Moody Road on the same day.

Last year, there were three confirmed cases of rabies in Bunswick, one grey fox and two raccoons.

“Unfortunately, this is not an isolated incident,” Stewart said, and cautioned residents not to approach any foxes and to report aggressive or sick looking animals to the police department.

Just last week,  a Woolwich man was attacked and bitten several times by two young foxes while doing yard work on Nequasset Pines Road.

James Collins, 79, told The Times Record he was working in his yard with a motorized trimmer when he was knocked to the ground by young foxes.

“One fox grabbed my muck boots and it tried to drag me away,” he said. “I was lying on the ground trying to keep the weed wacker between me and the fox.”

Collins said he struck one fox several times until it ran away. He was able to get to his back steps, but was then charged by the second fox. He was bitten several times on the arms and legs and given medical attention for rabies.

Foxes don’t normally approach people. When they do, it’s a common indicator that the animal is rabid, Scott Lindsay, a regional wildlife biologist at the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, told the Times Record in an earlier interview.

It’s impossible to confirm whether an animal is infected with rabies while it is alive because brain tissue needs to be tested.

Mark Latti, communications directors of the IF&W, said wildlife is common in the area and seeing a fox walk through your yard shouldn’t be cause for concern. However, residents should feed their pets indoors and eliminate other food sources such as bird feeders, to discourage animals from coming near your home.

“If people see foxes or raccoons in the area acting strangely like walking in circles or acting lethargic, those are signs that there’s some type of neurological issue going on and should be reported,” said Latti.

Rabies is transmitted primarily through bites and exposure to saliva or spinal fluid from an infected animal. It infects the nervous system of mammals, making the infected animal unusually aggressive. Vaccines are 100% effective in combating the disease in humans. Rabies is fatal if left untreated.

In Bath, 18 residents and pets were attacked by rabid foxes last year during an outbreak. 

The Maine CDC confirmed 16 cases of rabies in Bath in 2019, compared to two in 2018 and none from 2015 to 2017.

The sudden rise in rabies cases led the city to partner with the U.S. Department of Agriculture to trap species known to carry rabies, such as gray and red foxes, skunks and raccoons. The trapping program was designed to reduce the density of animal species that may carry rabies, lowering the chances of a human or pet coming into contact with a rabid animal.

The controversial program cost the city $26,611. Twenty-four raccoons and four skunks were caught in Bath and euthanized, but no foxes. None of the animals caught were carrying rabies.

Times Record reporter Kathleen O’Brien contributed to this report.

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