When Joshua Gilman of Springfield got home from work last week, he had an unwelcome visitor on his front porch.
"I saw something moving on my porch and I saw it was a fox," he said. "My first reaction was to yell at it, 'Get out of here!'"
After multiple attempts to scare the animal failed, Gilman went to his neighbor's house and returned with an ice chopper. He didn't intend to kill the animal, but rather shoo it away.
"By the time I got to the corner of the house, he was there. Instead of running away, he decided he was going to attack," Gilman said. "I basically jumped back and swung the ice chopper and luckily I stunned it and ended up killing it on my porch."
"It is certainly a public health risk. I think if it wasn't a concern, we wouldn't be sending in the head or carcass for testing," said Greg Eckhardt, a Vermont game warden.
The fox at Gilman's house did test positive for rabies. According to the Health Department, there have been hundreds of cases of animal rabies reported throughout Vermont during the past 10 years.
Bait dropping programs in New York, Vermont and New Hampshire are aimed at eradicating the virus. But despite that, Vermont cases in 2012 were slightly above normal, according to the Health Department. If contracted by humans through a bite, it can be deadly.
"The federal government is still trying to address this because it is a public safety issue and that was targeting raccoons and that was up on the Canadian border," Eckhardt said.
Eckhardt has dealt with several rabies cases during his 15 years as a game warden. His advice-- if you see a suspicious animal, call authorities. And keep your pets up to date with their vaccines. But the signs of an infected animal, like the case in Springfield, are not always clear.
"It didn't have any signs of being sick or ill," Gilman said. "It wasn't foaming at the mouth. It didn't have any sores on it. It actually looked healthy, but the behavior was very classic, rabid animal behavior."
Gilman says he's telling his story so people are more aware and to offer a little advice of his own.
"Don't do what I did," he advised. "Stay away."
An encounter with a rabid fox that was a little too close for comfort.
Gilman says he did end up getting the rabies shots, despite not being bitten, just as a precaution.
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