A Waldorf girl's encounter this summer with a fox was the incident that prompted Charles County Animal Control Services and public health officials to warn residents about avoiding exposure to rabies.

On July 28, a three-legged fox bit the girl and her mother outside the family's home on Madison Place. The animal, which also attacked a tire on the ambulance sent to the scene, tested positive for rabies.

The small gray fox came out of the woods bordering the neighborhood just before 3 p.m. It tore a flip-flop from 11-year-old Katelyn Riker's foot. When Teresa Riker tried to protect her daughter, she was bitten repeatedly by the fox, neighbors said.

"It was chasing her around the yard, and then she got ahold of it by the muzzle and the tail and tossed it," said Kyle Christiansen, Riker's husband. "But it immediately lunged back and attacked her."

Teresa Riker was bitten on the leg, the ankle, the hand and the stomach, said C. Edward Tucker, Charles County's animal control chief. The fox, which had lost a foot and part of a leg in a trap, fled into the woods.

When the fox emerged from the woods again, it was shot and killed by a Charles County sheriff's deputy.

Neighbors said they had seen a family of foxes living in the woods behind their street.

The incident was the most serious of several involving rabid animals in Southern Maryland this summer. A Loveville dog was euthanized, and a Charlotte Hall dog quarantined after two separate contacts with rabid animals in the wild during the first week of August. St. Mary's County Health Department officials renewed warnings to residents to take precautions to protect their pets.

-- JONATHAN ABEL