Monday, October 1, 2018

Rabies or Sarcoptic Mange?

Bill Williams of 98.5 The Cat reported this morning a "possible rabid fox" in the Hudson cemetery. The news set off a flurry of comments on the Facebook, with several people suggesting that the fox was not rabid but was suffering from mange.

Gossips has been fox watching in the cemetery since the beginning of September, when a fellow cemetery walker alerted me to a fox behaving strangely, suggesting it might be rabid. As it turned out, the fox was suffering from sarcoptic mange. For almost a month, a small band of fox watchers searched diligently for the mangy fox, exchanging information and logging sightings in an effort to get help for the creature, but our efforts were unsuccessful. Just when we thought we had established the fox's movements and identified two places where it was likely to appear, one of the fox watchers found the fox dead, just a few yards from where this picture had been taken only the day before.

The day after the dead fox was discovered, people started seeing another fox in the cemetery. This series of pictures, taken between September 24 and September 29, shows that fox--one that is definitely healthier than the first one, but showing, by all accounts, the early signs of mange.

According to The Fox Website, "Mange is a common disease of foxes and has caused fox population crashes around the world." The Humane Society of the United States provides this information on its website about rabies and mange in foxes.
Foxes aren't dangerous to humans, except when they are rabid, which is very rare. Although foxes sometimes succumb to rabies, the good news is that the fox strain of the disease has rarely if ever been transmitted to a human in this country. . . .
It's not all that unusual for a fox to be seen out and about during the day, so that is not cause for concern. Foxes prey on squirrels, birds, chipmunks, and other animals that are only active by day, so they may simply be looking for a meal at that time. Before calling to report a fox or ask for assistance, take time to observe the fox's behavior, and look for these signs: partial paralysis or the inability to use their limbs well; circling or staggering as if drunk; self-mutilation; acting aggressively for no reason; acting unnaturally tame. . . .
Mange is an extremely debilitating affliction caused by microscopic parasites called Sarcoptes scabei mites, that result in either patchy or entire hair loss.
The disease causes intense irritation of the skin to the point where foxes have been known to chew their own tails off trying to relieve the itching. At advanced stages, infected foxes are often seen wandering around during the daytime, seemingly unafraid.  
A mange-stricken fox may be mistaken for a rabid one because of their sickly appearance and seeming lack of fear.
The collective information from Gossips' circle of fox watchers suggests that there were two adult foxes and two fox kits in the cemetery. The fox that died was one of the adults. It is believed that the fox being seen now is its mate. No one has seen the kits lately, but they would now be about six months old--almost grown and hard to distinguish from the adults.

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