US kills Capitol vixen over rabies fears

The wild fox that bit nine people at the US Capitol has been put to death ahead of a rabies test

A wild vixen that reportedly bit nine people – including a member of Congress and a reporter – in Washington, DC has been trapped and put to death on Wednesday, so a rabies test could be done. US health authorities also found a litter of fox kits, whose fate is yet to be determined.

“The fox responsible for nine confirmed bites on Capitol Hill yesterday was captured and humanely euthanized so that rabies testing may be done,” the DC Department of Health said Wednesday. “The fox was an adult female and her kits were found and captured this morning.”

No other foxes were found on Capitol Hill grounds, the authorities said, but noted that “many” are present throughout the US capital district and the sight of them wouldn’t be uncommon. There will be no general round-up of foxes in the area, while officials are currently “working to determine next steps for the fox kits,” the health department said.

The US Capitol police had warned of “aggressive fox encounters” on Tuesday afternoon and urged the public not to approach any foxes in the complex that houses the federal legislature. 

“It bit me from behind while I was walking,” Politico reporter Ximena Bustillo tweeted on Tuesday. “I didn’t even see it. I’m from Idaho. I know to not try and pet it!!” 

Congressman Ami Bera (D-California) was also attacked, and shared a photo of his punctured trousers with local media. He said the fox nipped his leg from behind, at which point he scared it off with an umbrella and it ran away.

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“I expect to get attacked if I go on Fox News, I don’t expect to get attacked by a fox,” he told reporters, referring to the conservative-leaning cable outlet.

While Bera said the fox bite didn’t manage to break the skin, he eventually opted for rabies shots out of an abundance of caution. 

“Despite the dustup, I hold no grudge or ill will against [the Capitol fox],” he tweeted on Wednesday, before the news of the vixen’s death. “Hoping the fox and its family are safely relocated and wishing it a happy and prosperous future.”

While there is no cure for rabies, there is a post-exposure vaccine that needs to be administered as quickly as possible, with a four-dose regimen extended over two weeks. Foxes are among the most common wild animals found rabid in the US, along with raccoons, wild bats and skunks.

While the US Capitol grounds are normally busy with members of Congress, staff, press and tourists, they have seen a drastic reduction in foot traffic recently – due to both the Covid-19 lockdowns and the ramped-up security after the January 6, 2021 riot over the US presidential election results.

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