Neighbors in Brighton worried about skulk of foxes after rabid attack

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. – A rabid fox bit at least six people in Brighton over the weekend. Now, those who live in the neighborhood where it happened are worried about the rest of the foxes in the skulk. 

“There’s some un-developed land behind us so they like hanging out back there,” Joe Tunis says about the foxes in his Brighton neighborhood. “They had a couple kits, babies, flopping around with them when I saw them the first few times.” 

Tunis recorded a video a few weeks ago when one of the foxes came right up on to his back deck and stayed a while. He and his wife hadn’t seen it again, until Friday.

“I was upstairs working and I hear my wife yell,” he recalls. “She was on the back deck like doing some garden prep stuff and I come down and she’s like, ‘the fox just bit me.’ She was inside at this point and the fox was outside milling around and then kind of ran away.”

The bite broke the skin of Tunis’ wife.

“We assumed the kits might have been under the deck and it was feeling threatened,” Tunis says.

But, that turned out not to be the case. The fox took off and ended up biting five other people in the neighborhood.

“We started hearing more of the incidents and a couple doors down, a child was bit,” he says.

Brighton Police and Brighton Animal Control responded to the neighborhood on Friday.

“This is the first time in my 20+ year career that I think we’ve had a rabid animal. We’ve never had something bite that many people before,” says Chief David Catholdi.

The department was able to trap and euthanize the fox. Further testing confirmed that it had rabies so, now all those who were bit by it must undergo a series of treatments.   

“My wife had a couple doses on Friday, the day of the bite. She had to then go back to get a couple more doses on Monday and then since it was confirmed the fox had rabies, she’s got to continue that so she has more doses this Friday and then next Friday,” Tunis explains. 

The family’s bigger concern though is for others.

“There’s been a turnover in the neighborhood in the last couple of years so there’s a lot of young kids,” Tunis says.

“I know people have seen foxes in their neighbors since this incident, is it the same family of foxes? Is it a different family? We don’t know that yet, we still have to gather some of those facts, which we’re working with DEC and the Department of Health to do,” says Chief Catholdi. 

In the meantime, Brighton animal control officers have set and been checking humane traps in the neighborhood. But, those really aren’t the best option when it comes to foxes.

“Leg hole traps, there is going to be a drawback, we’re in a suburban area, putting leg hole traps out there… you run the risk of capturing cats or dogs because they’re free range animals. So, we have to weigh out those concerns,” Chief Cathodli says.

Once he has more answers, he plans to hold a meeting with people who live in the neighborhood, likely early next week.

The Monroe County Department of Public Health is urging anyone who came into physical contact with the fox in the Brighton area last week to consult with a healthcare provider. And, if they have not already done so, report the incident to the County’s Rabies Control Program at (585)753-5171.

Rabies is a viral disease that leads to death of infected humans or pets if left untreated. People who did not touch the animal are not at risk. To prevent rabies, people should always avoid touching wildlife and keep their pets vaccinated against the disease. To learn more and find a free Monroe County rabies vaccination clinic near you, click here.