Maine woman treated for rabies after wrestling fox

The woman said she suffered cuts and bites to her hands and called 911 in tears after struggling with the fox and sealing it in a pot


Jon Bolduc
Sun Journal, Lewiston, Maine

GRAY, Maine — Eliza Ruth Watson, 37, was gardening at her home on Mountain View Road in Gray on Thursday morning when she looked up and saw a fox.

She had no way of knowing that by the end of her struggle with the animal she would be in an ambulance, heading to Mercy Hospital in Portland with minor cuts and bites to her hands.

“At the hospital, people kept asking, ‘are you the one who wrestled the fox?'” Watson said by phone Thursday afternoon.

“It’s certainly not how I expected to spend my day,” she said.

Watson said she sometimes encounters foxes because she and her husband have poultry and are used to the animals creeping in from the woods attempting to score a snack.

Usually, the foxes are big and bushy-tailed, and run away when they encounter people.

As Watson ran toward the fox, hands flailing, trying to scare it off, she realized this one was not like the others.

In a split second, Watson said, she realized it wasn’t running away. It was running toward her, ready to attack.

“Thinking back on it now, the fox was a mangy, stanky fox,” she said. “I ran towards it, with my hands flailing, yelling at it. Instead of taking off, it came at me,” she said.

Wrestling a rabid fox isn’t something Watson had ever thought about doing, so she did what first came to mind. She kicked it.

“I thought, ah, I will kick it. It came back,” she said. “It kept coming back, and I kept kicking it. It jumped — I was wearing yard gloves, thank goodness, or I really would have been injured. It jumped up and bit into my hands.”

Eventually, the fox let go of Watson’s hand, and she grabbed it around the neck, trying to keep it from biting her. She held on it as it wiggled viciously, trying to break her grip on its throat.

“I wasn’t really thinking,” she said. “You don’t really think when that sort of thing happens to you. ‘Let me try to choke this fox and strangle it to death…’ that’s sort of what I ended up trying to do. It wouldn’t back down. It was just fighting so hard,” she said.

She thought about throwing the fox in the garage, but realized that wouldn’t work. Eventually, she located a pot used to scald birds so they could be plucked. She managed to wrangle the fox over to the pot, shoved it in, and closed the lid.

The fox didn’t like that, she said. It jumped up, trying to get out, again biting her in the thumb.

Eventually, she sealed the fox in the pot. Then, she called her husband, asked him to come home from work, and called 911.

“The adrenaline started to wear off, and I lost it,” she said. “I was on the phone with 911 in tears.”

Watson was taken to the hospital by ambulance, where her cuts were cleaned up and she received about five injections for the rabies vaccine.

According to a Facebook post by the town, the fox was trapped by game wardens and taken to Augusta, where it will be tested for rabies.

Watson was released from the hospital Thursday afternoon.

All in all, Watson said she was lucky. The fox could have been bigger, and if it were, it would have been impossible for her to fend it off. Her 5-year-old son could have been on the receiving end of the attack as well, and that would have ended very differently.

The fox “was very live, and grimy, and bendy, and wiggly … it had blood all over,” Watson said. “Thinking back now, I don’t think I could have handled it any differently. It was intent on attacking. It’s not like alligator wrangling where you can position yourself to get the alligator a certain way. I’ve never had to wrestle a fox before.”

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©2020 the Sun Journal (Lewiston, Maine)

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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