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What to do if you see a fox

Matthew Lane • Oct 24, 2017 at 9:15 PM

KINGSPORT — If you happen to spot a fox in your yard or running through the neighborhood, don't panic. At the same time, don't bother calling animal control either.

Your best bet is to make sure no small animals are outside, and if you want to scare the fox away, blow an air horn, bang on some pots and pans or use motion-activated lights or sprinklers.

The Times-News recently got a tip about a fox spotted in Ridgefields along Fleetwood Drive on Sunday evening. A resident said the fox was behaving very strangely, so they decided to call the authorities and wildlife officials to see what could be done.

Tom Patton, spokesman for the Kingsport Police Department, said if a wild animal is acting normal, an officer will document the sighting and let the animal go along its way. If the animal is visibly showing signs of rabies or distemper, Patton said officers would then attempt to euthanize the animal.

Matthew Cameron, spokesman for the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency, said the agency does not usually go out and trap wildlife. In fact, it's not common at all, and the resident will likely have to pay a licensed trapper to perform that service.

“There's no possible way (for the TWRA) to deal with the number of nuisance complaints we receive,” Cameron said. “We get calls daily about it. It would be a full-time job.”

PETworks: Regional Animal Services is not licensed to trap wildlife, said its manager Donna Davidson.

In an email to the Times-News, Cameron said foxes are naturally afraid of humans and will typically run if they see or detect a human presence. Furthermore, foxes are not dangerous to humans unless they carry rabies.

“But from what I understand, a rabid fox is very rare,” Cameron said.

Foxes have been known to prey upon poultry, but a properly constructed coop will usually prevent predation. They might also possibly prey on small pets such as rabbits or kittens if left unattended, especially at night. The best precaution is to keep these animals in a proper enclosure near a home.

If a fox is seen around your home, Cameron said you can haze it in the same manner you would coyotes: making loud noises such as banging on pots and pans, playing radios or blowing air horns or using motion-activated lights or sprinklers.

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, wild animals accounted for 92.4 percent of reported cases of rabies in 2015. Bats were the most frequently reported rabid wildlife species (30.9 percent of all animal cases during 2015), followed by raccoons (29.4 percent), skunks (24.8 percent), and foxes (5.9 percent).

What is rabies?

Rabies is a deadly virus that is transmitted by bites from an infected animal. It can be prevented if treated promptly before symptoms develop. If left untreated, rabies is nearly always fatal. In the United States, up to 40,000 people each year receive preventive treatment following an exposure.

Is rabies still a problem?

In Tennessee and elsewhere in the U.S., the number of rabies cases in domestic animals has declined dramatically due to mandatory vaccination laws for dogs and cats. However, rabies among wildlife (especially skunks, bats and raccoons) has become more prevalent.

How can you protect your pets?

Tennessee law requires all dogs and cats be vaccinated against rabies and their shots kept up to date. Although cases of rabies in cats in Tennessee are uncommon, there are twice as many rabid cats as dogs in the U.S. To further protect your pets, keep them confined to a controlled area to limit their exposure to wild animals.

What should you do if you are bitten?

If you are bitten by a wild or domestic animal or get fresh saliva from the animal into a fresh wound or scratch, then immediately wash the wound thoroughly with soap and water for at least five minutes, and seek medical attention immediately. Local or state health officials should be consulted to help determine if rabies treatment is needed.

Source: Tennessee Department of Health

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