Gatling Pointe family encounters likely rabid fox

Published 5:11 pm Monday, August 14, 2023

When Laura Livanec took her 6-year-old daughter to a park in the Gatling Pointe neighborhood last month, she noticed something odd about a fox that ran out of the woods, barking.

When her 65-pound golden retriever barked back aggressively at the fox, it didn’t flee.

Livanec and her daughter were only a few feet behind when the fox charged at her husband and dog.

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“We ran from the playground to the pavilion and then into the parking lot heading towards the back section of the neighborhood,” Livanec recalls. “Meanwhile, the fox scurried the tree line from the playground towards the basketball court and eventually met our path.”

Her husband then started making aggressive movements and noises at the fox to allow Livanec and her daughter to run safely away. He and the dog followed.

Once home, Livanec called 911 and was told by a wildlife services officer that the fox was almost certainly rabid.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, rabies is a viral disease most often transmitted through the bite of an infected animal. The vast majority of rabies cases reported to the CDC each year occur in wild animals like bats, raccoons, skunks and foxes, though any mammal is vulnerable.

The rabies virus infects the central nervous system, eventually causing death, though it’s 100% preventable in people through prompt medical care, the CDC’s website states. Cats, dogs and other companion animals can be vaccinated against rabies.

According to Deputy Alecia Paul, a spokeswoman for the Isle of Wight County Sheriff’s Office, Isle of Wight’s Animal Services Unit took custody of the fox and contacted the Virginia Department of Health.

“Due to the animal being wild and not having contact with any humans or companion animals, they do not test for Rabies,” Paul said.