Couple in downtown Monroe attacked by a rabid fox

Orange Fox by Nathan-Anderson on – not the fox from the incident.

Monday afternoon a couple in downtown Monroe had an unfortunate encounter with a fox, which led to one of them having to undergo a treatment regime for rabies.

Renowned Monroe historian and photographer, Larry Witcher, said his wife Faye, went to the trash can Monday afternoon. Witcher said his wife noticed that a fox was nearby, but she went ahead and put the trash in the trash can.

“The fox charged at her and bit her on the ankle, but she had tennis shoes on and it didn’t break through to her skin,” Witcher said. Faye Witcher then shouted for her husband, who came outside with a gun. By that time, Witcher said the fox had retreated to under a vehicle.

“I looked down under the car and he charged at me and got me by the finger,” Witcher said. “I shot at him and hit him, but he got away and got under some bushes. When I went there, he got me again by that same finger.”

Witcher said that was when his son came and was able to shoot and kill the fox. Witcher then contacted a local doctor, who told him they did not have the right medication to treat him if the fox had been rabid and they referred him to the hospital.

“I went to Piedmont Walton and the local animal control man came out. He and the doctor decided that since it would likely take several days to get the results because they were busy with the coronavirus, I should start treatment for rabies so if it turned out that the fox was rabid, I would already have begun the treatment,” Witcher said.

And it is just as well he did. Shawn Morris, with Walton County Animal, confirmed Wednesday afternoon that the fox was indeed rabid. Witcher said following the attack on Monday, he had five shots in the injured finger as well as a series of other shots while he was still at the hospital.

“One in each shoulder, one in each hip and one in each of my thighs,” Witcher said. He has to go back each day for another shot until he has completed a course of 18. “The finger is healing now so I’m doing good.”

Kaitlin Goode, the urban wildlife program manager of game management at the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, said that Witcher did exactly what he should have under the circumstances.

“It is perfectly acceptable to kill an animal to stop it from continuing an attack. If there is one that appears to be aggressive, but has not yet attacked, someone can call the Georgia DNR and we will take care of it,” Goode said. “But you are absolutely allowed to defend yourself.”

Goode said there is no real season for rabies. They see instances of rabies year-round, but spring is the season where animals may be a little more aggressive and could be encroaching on the urban population more.

“This is the time of year when animals are having young so they’re working non stop to bring food back to den or the nest to feed their young. If you have concerns, you can call us. The best number to call is 1-800- 366-2661. That number has longer than normal business hours and they will direct you to whomever the agent on call is,” Goode said. “If there is wildlife in your backyard, we encourage you to scare them off. We call it hazing – you being the dominant animal so you’re scaring them out of your yard. This works for deer, coyotes,  foxes and raccoons. You really don’t see much opossums as they are almost strictly nocturnal.”

But for the others, Goode suggests hazing them by making loud noises such as shouting, using air horns or banging together loud objects such as pots and pans.

“Those are all good options,” she said.

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