Never hurts to practice caution when Mother Nature’s critters are involved

I was stunned one early morning this week past when WTAJ had a news story of a woman in the Pittsburgh area who was actually bitten by a fox.

But this fox was in her suburban neighborhood running around, not in the wild somewhere, and she got a little concerned that it might hurt someone’s pet or children so she decided to go warn her neighbors.

Turned out not to be the best decision because as she walked down her own driveway the fox charged and bit her severely on the ankle and leg. She fought back, however, and pinned the fox down with her other leg but not until it had bitten her again on the hand and arm. She held it there until the Game Commission arrived – a neighbor had called them – and took the fox off her premises.

However, even though the Commission sent the fox to the lab to be tested for rabies pronto, the results would not be available for several days so as a precaution, she had to begin the series of rabies shots. My understanding is that those shots are no picnic.

The reason I was so stunned is that a few years ago, I had a close encounter with a fox myself. I’m sure I wrote about it then but I’m going to repeat it today. Close encounters with wildlife are not to be encouraged. Wildlife, whether sick or not, can be quite dangerous if startled or surprised.

When I’m in the woods hunting or hiking, I never knowingly allow any wildlife to approach close enough to reach out and slap, scratch or bite me. My own incident with a gray fox a few years ago was a very close call.

It was well before daylight when I reached my chosen spot that spring morning. I knew there was a gobbler close by (in fact, it was Sneaky Pete for those of you who have followed my adventures with that bird.) When he began to thunder just before dawn- in that gray/pink period when you can only see anything because your eyes have adjusted to the dark – I reached into my pocket for my aged Primos slate call – and stroked out a few soft tree calls.

He continued to gobble and sparingly I wafted out more soft yelps. He answered and my heart began to thump as I anticipated the battle of wits that would be getting into high gear soon.

Little did I know!

As I sat there listening intently to that big bird, I suddenly and unexpectedly got a cold chill and goose bumps raised on my arms; I got an eerie feeling, a presentiment almost, that something was behind me.

Now, I’m not a scary person in the woods and what was happening then had not happened before in all my years. But ( later I would be thankful for this) it was one of those absolutely quiet mornings. Warm and not a breath of a breeze blowing but I was hugely aware that something wasn’t quite right.

I sat motionless, listening, and then I heard a barely perceptible rustle in the leaves. By now it was pink enough to see something if it was close. I turned only my head and looked over my shoulder and there, not 5 feet away, was a big gray fox, already in the crouch position, ready to pounce on me!

Our eyes met, honest they did, and he whirled and ran so fast I could hear him making tracks out of there. That fox was not after me, it had heard the soft yelps I was making and thought it was going to have turkey for breakfast.

I’m not frightened of foxes ordinarily, but I am frightened of a fox or anything, 5 feet away just ready to pounce. Had I not heard that slight rustle he would have jumped on me. And not knowing what had hit me I would have reacted and surely been bitten or at the least scratched.

There was no way I could ever have gotten off a shot in that situation. And I would have been having to get precautionary rabies shots. I’m sure it was one or more of my ever present squadron of guardian angels that sent that foreboding over me.

Those who know me bet know that I have a regular knack for getting my self into sticky situations. Whatever goofy thing that is happening I will surely be in the middle of it.

Rabid animals that may wander into your neighborhood, or yard or under your vehicle or sitting placidly in your garden may not betray their condition by foaming at the mouth. But be warned – any wild animal that seems too docile, that seems to have lost its fear of humans, that staggers or falls when it walks or is acting strangely in any way, is to be deliberately avoided.

If an animal such as this wanders into your yard and any very young children see it, their first instinct is to try to pet it or to pick it up. It is important to teach children to never go near any animal in your yard.

There have been incidents of beavers being found rabid, a deer was tested and found to be rabid, squirrels, you name it, anything can be diseased. If you take a step or two toward it and it doesn’t run away – back off! There is something wrong with any animal that does not try to flee from humans.