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iBerkshires.com Columnist Section

Sue Bush
More articles from Sue Bush

Rabies Danger

By Susan Bush
12:00AM / Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Clarksburg - A fox believed to have been infected with rabies was killed over Easter weekend and town police Chief Michael Williams urged area residents to remain alert to any animals they encounter.

The weekend incident brings to five the total fox killed because of rabies concerns over the past six months. Rabid fox have been confirmed in town.

Serious Health Threat

"We're taking this as a serious health threat," Williams said. "If someone calls about an animal that is acting strangely, or something just doesn't seem right, we will respond. And if we have to put the animal down, we will."

Fox Appeared Ill

The fox was shot on April 15 in an area between the Demers farm property and 64 Wood Road. Williams said that a member of the Maselli family, who live on Wood Road and saw the fox as they drove toward their home, called police because the animal appeared to be acting in an odd manner and also appeared to be ill. When Williams arrived at the site, he also noted odd behavior, he said.

"When I first saw him he was sitting on a [stone] wall," Williams said. "I knocked on the cruiser and he came right toward me. I got back into the cruiser, and it started circling the vehicle and chewing on the tires."

Town police Officer Christopher Gelinas arrived at the scene to offer assistance, and the officers saw the fox walk toward an area that is much more heavily populated with houses and families. Police could not safely shoot toward that area, and also feared increased risk to people if the fox escaped into the neighborhood, Williams said.

Williams and Gelinas began making noise, and the sounds drew the fox back in their direction. Williams said that he noticed the fox appeared to be becoming quite ill and said that the animal may have experienced a convulsion as he and Gelinas watched.

Williams was ultimately able to shoot and kill the fox.

The animal was removed from the scene but because the fox did not make contact with humans, the remains were not sent to state laboratories for rabies testing, Williams said.

However, the animal was obviously ill and most likely rabid, he said.

Williams said that he and town Animal Control Officer Christopher Dix have discussed the problem of rabid fox and also noted that state Department of Public Health officials have stated that there is an epidemic of rabies in portions of New Hampshire, Vermont, and Massachusetts. Fox are among the animals affected by the epidemic.

Cautions and Concerns

Extended daylight hours and milder temperatures are luring more people into the outdoors, and Williams is advising adults and children to keep an eye on their surroundings and be particularly careful around any wild animals.

In some cases, a rabid animal may approach people in what may seem to be a calm manner, Williams said. People should not believe that such an animal is tame. In other cases, an infected animal may display extremely aggressive behavior. In any case, people should get away from any wild animal that is acting oddly, Williams emphasized.

The Maselli family followed all the appropriate steps during the weekend incident, he said.

"They did all the right things. They stayed away from the fox. They noticed that something was wrong with the fox, something seemed off, and they reported it. They took all the correct steps."

Williams issued a strong precaution to town residents.

"People need to be very aware and stay away from wild animals, and I mean no matter what, even if the animal doesn't seem scared, even if it isn't taking off, even if it seems tame. People need to get away and stay away from these animals. And they need to call us right away."

Town police can be called for an emergency by dialing 9-1-1. The town police department non-emergency telephone number is 413-663-7795.

Susan Bush may be reached via e-mail at suebush@iberkshires.com or at 802-823-9367.
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