A fox suspected of clamping its jaws onto a woman’s leg in a frightening attack Tuesday near Lake Harriet in Minneapolis was caught Wednesday morning and put down. The animal’s capture came not long after it apparently pursued a jogger in the same area before dawn Wednesday, officials said.
The animal was showing symptoms associated with rabies at the time of its capture, according to a statement from the city. The fox will be tested to confirm the rabies infection, but the victims will undergo a vaccination regimen regardless of the test results, the statement added.
Caroline Hairfield, deputy director of Minneapolis Animal Care and Control, said staff members “were able to walk up and catch it with a rabies pole” about 8:15 a.m. near the corner of Lake Harriet Parkway and West Minnehaha Parkway, just to the southeast of the lake and close to where the woman was attacked early Tuesday afternoon.
Susan Obmoin, 51, of Eagan, was removing her bicycle from the rack on her vehicle around noon Tuesday. While reaching for the bike, she felt something around her feet. Then it suddenly latched on for about eight seconds.
“I screamed and all of Lake Harriet heard me,” said Obmoin, who still had bandages covering wounds on either side of her left calf. “I had to reach down and pry it off. But people came to my rescue.”
Obmoin shooed the fox away, and it circled her car before scampering back in the woods.
“I thought it was a little brown dog,” she said. “I couldn’t believe it.”
Bystanders rushed to Obmoin’s aid, poured water over the bleeding wound and called 911. She drove herself to Fairview Southdale Hospital, received a rabies shot and was sent home. Doctors told her they’d never heard of such a thing.
“I’m still wondering what attracted it to me and the man it bit this morning,” she said. Obmoin said she’d never seen a fox in the area before, and she’s now jumpy — she keeps checking under her car, and vows never to park by the wooded area again.
The attack on the jogger occurred about 5:15 a.m. Wednesday, officials said. Details about that encounter have yet to be released.
Residents who came to Obmoin’s aid told emergency responders that foxes are common in the area and that a woman in the neighborhood “may be feeding [and] allowing foxes to live under her deck,” the report noted.
Animal Control patrols are underway where the attack occurred, and its staff intends to investigate possible illegal feeding of foxes.
Any people who truly care about wildlife would leave animals in the wild alone, Hairfield said. “You’re doing them a disservice” by feeding them, she said.
Clara Domisch, who owns Clarabel antique store in southwest Minneapolis, shot video in May of several foxes playing on a lawn outside a home on that same side of the lake.
Domisch said she has seen them often in that area and has “never been concerned” that they would come after her. “I’m surprised that someone has been bitten,” she said.
Animal Control said it can’t be sure that the captured fox, described by Hairfield as a year-old female weighing under 10 pounds, is responsible for either or both attacks.
“We can never 100 percent guarantee it is,” Hairfield said. “That’s why [the] parties in this matter are being treated for rabies [with a series vaccination shots] just to be on the safe side.”
Dr. Caitlin Eccles-Radtke, an infectious disease physician at Hennepin County Medical Center, said the vaccinations involve single shots in the arm starting on the day of exposure and then on the third, seventh and 14th days following the encounter. Before that series is an injection to help the immune system.
With bites from domesticated animals, such as dogs and cats, health providers can monitor the animal for signs of rabies and then decide after about 10 days whether to go ahead with the shots.
But in cases of wild animals, “we regard them as rabid” and go ahead with the vaccinations.
Incidents in Minneapolis of mammals having rabies are rare, and it’s unusual for a fox to venture so close to a human, Hairfield said.
“This one was very aggressive,” Hairfield said. “This one came out and attacked, unprovoked, two people; one was jogging down the road and the other was taking a bicycle off a car.”