Foxes found locally aren’t rabid

Published 12:03 am Saturday, February 19, 2011

Those flashes of red seen around Andalusia during daylight hours aren’t figments of the imagination.

It appears the local fox population is rebo-unding, bringing with it a chance of distemper, a fatal animal disease that is not transmittable to humans, health officials said Friday.

Within the last three months, the Andalusia Animal Control and Police Department have killed six strange acting foxes inside the city limits.

“Foxes have been sighted during daylight hours wandering slowly through residential neighborhoods, which is highly unusual behavior for them,” said Dr. Bob Bush, a local veterinarian. “They are nocturnal creatures that usually avoid human contact.”

Bush said a dead fox was recently submitted to the state health lab in Mobile for rabies testing, and the results were negative.

“About three years ago, similar fox sightings occurred in the northern part of the city, and the foxes were found to be suffering from distemper,” he said.

Bush said the state health department and U.S. Department of Agriculture Wildlife Services have been contacted concerning the increase in daytime fox sightings.

“Their hypothesis is that the fox population has rebounded and again distemper is occurring as a natural means of population control,” he said. “(They said) raccoons are also very susceptible to infection during distemper outbreaks, and laboratory testing is planned to verify the cause of these events.”

While distemper is thought to be the cause of these sightings, the symptoms of distemper and rabies are very similar, he said.

“Rabies is active locally in wild animal populations, and the state lab confirms an average of three rabid animals per year in Covington County,” he said. “That’s why it’s so important to get your pets vaccinated and avoid contact with animals that are acting strange.”