A gray fox in Bath that was reported to Wilderness Miracles wildlife rehabilitation center earlier this week. The fox is exhibiting symptoms of mange, a skin disease that causes fur loss. Courtesy of Lori McKenney

Wildlife rehabilitators are on the hunt for a sickly gray fox that several Bath residents have seen, some of whom were concerned the animal might be rabid.

Kathi Reed, owner of Bowdoin wildlife rehabilitation center Wilderness Miracles, is trying to trap the fox, not because it’s dangerous but because it has a nasty case of mange and needs treatment. The animal is not behaving in a way that indicates it might be suffering from rabies and could recover with medication and time, Reed said.

Mange is a skin disease caused by mites that causes patchy fur and crusty, itchy skin.

Lori McKenney, a Bath resident, was one of the people who reported the fox, but she was more concerned for the fox’s health than she was worried that it might have rabies.

“You can see the mange around the eyes and the tail,” she said. Besides that, the fox looked harmless to her, but dirty and underweight.

“I wasn’t fearful at all,” McKenney said. “It didn’t growl. … I was standing within 10 feet of it when I took the photos.”

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McKenney reported the animal to Reed after feeling “concerned that someone would shoot it” due to alarm in the community surrounding wild animals with rabies.

Rabies has had residents in the Bath area on alert for years, after repeated attacks on people and dogs by foxes, racoons and other wildlife. Rabies is a virus that affects the neurological system, causing animals that are normally wary of humans to become aggressive or behave in unusual ways.

One of the two traps Kathi Reed set earlier this week. Reed hopes to bring the fox into her wildlife rehabilitation center, Wilderness Miracles, to treat it for mange. Courtesy of Kathi Reed

As of this October, the state had confirmed 66 cases of rabies in animals across the state — a striking increase when compared with the 35 total cases recorded in 2022. Of those 66 cases, 19 were in Cumberland County. The disease was mostly found in raccoons, which accounted for half the cases.

In July, a rabid groundhog attacked Brunswick Town Councilor David Watson. Watson, 75, shot and killed the groundhog.

Earlier that month, a raccoon in West Bath was killed by an animal control officer after reports of it acting strangely.

This sickly fox hasn’t showed any of the telltale signs of rabies, including unusual aggression, unusual fearfulness, foaming at the mouth, seizures, paralysis or staggered movement.

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Reed said she’s unsure whether there are one or two mangey foxes at large, but so far only one has been sighted at a time. If her traps are effective, she plans to bring the animal to her wildlife rehabilitation center to treat the animal before releasing it back into the wild. If she is unable to trap the fox, Reed said she will treat it in the field with Bravecto, a one-time dose of mange medication.

“I do this because I care about Maine wildlife,” said Reed, who has treated “orphaned baby raccoons, skunks, possums, everything from mice to coyotes” at Wilderness Miracles with the help of six volunteers. “I’ll bring them in and raise them and then we wild them up for release and then we release them.”

Monday was a busy day for Reed — she was also tracking down a mangey red fox near the Industrial Park in Brunswick.

“I think that wildlife is important for our future, and I like to educate people on it, especially children,” she said.

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