Three fox kits found in a den on the grounds of the U.S. Capitol have been euthanized after their mother tested positive for rabies.
Health officials said “the mother tested positive for the rabies virus and the kits could have been exposed during grooming or other means. They were no longer able to be safely rehabilitated and were humanely euthanized.”
The foxes have gained plenty of attention this week on social media and on Capitol Hill after the mother fox bit nine people. Health officials said they were contacting “all human victims who were bitten by the fox.”
Animal control officers captured the mother fox Tuesday morning after she charged at one of the officers.
To figure out whether an animal has rabies, it has to be euthanized, and samples from its brain tissue have to be taken so tests can be run at a lab, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Roughly 120,000 animals a year in the United States are tested for rabies, and of them, about 6 percent are found to be rabid.
Officials with the U.S. Capitol Police who were involved in the fox saga said they were “not sure how long” the foxes had been around the Capitol grounds. Health officials said “no other foxes” had been found on the grounds but warned that it would “not be uncommon to see more” because they are “present throughout” the city.
City officials said they would not be doing a “roundup of healthy foxes in the area” and would intervene only to “remove wildlife if they are sick or injured” or if someone had been exposed and rabies testing would be needed.
They urged anyone who encounters an “aggressive, sick or injured fox” to contact animal control at 202-723-5730. Humans who are bitten by rabid animals are encouraged to seek medical treatment and get a series of shots to treat it.
Lauren Crossed, a wildlife program manager at the Humane Rescue Alliance whose crews were involved in the capture of the rabid fox Tuesday, said it is “very common” for mother foxes to protect their dens and their kits.
But she said the fox was “exhibiting unusual aggression, spanning an area much larger” than experts would expect for a “fox just protecting her den.” Usually, foxes protect their immediate area, she said, but this one was “traveling blocks to attack people.”
The fox became big news on social media Tuesday and even had its own Twitter account.
On Tuesday, Rep. Ami Bera (D-Calif.) said in a telephone interview that he was among those attacked, at about 5 p.m. Monday while he was walking near the Russell Senate Office Building. Out of an abundance of caution, Bera said, he saw a doctor and started the series of treatment for rabies, including immunoglobulin shots and a tetanus shot, in case he was exposed.