Hamilton residents should be aware of the possibility that foxes in the area may be infected with rabies.
The head’s up comes after recent incidents in two nearby communities – Beverly and Ipswich – where people were bitten by a fox that later tested positive for rabies.
Anyone who encounters a fox in Hamilton that is possibly infected with rabies should contact the emergency dispatch center (978-468-1212) so proper personnel can be dispatched, said Hamilton Police Chief Russell Stevens.
Responders could include Hamilton police, an Environmental Police officer or the animal control officer, he said.
Rabies is a very serious disease that affects the brain and spinal cord of mammals and is caused by a virus. It almost always leads to death, according to the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (DPH). Rabies in animals is fairly common in Massachusetts and since 1985, more than 5,000 animals, including foxes, have tested positive for rabies in Massachusetts, according to the DPH.
MassWildlife offers several tips to avoid interactions or conflicts with foxes:
Secure garbage – Foxes will raid open trash materials and compost piles. Secure your garbage in tough plastic containers with tight fitting lids and keep in secure buildings when possible. Take out trash the morning pick up is scheduled, not the previous night. Keep compost piles in containers designed to contain but vent the material.
Don’t feed or try to pet foxes – Feeding, whether direct or indirect, can cause foxes to act tame and over time may lead to bold behavior. Foxes that rely on natural food items remain wild and wary of humans.
Keep pets safe – Although free roaming pets are more likely to be killed by automobiles than by wild animals, foxes can view cats as potential food. For the safety of pets, keep them restrained at all times.
Keep bird feeder areas clean – Use feeders designed to keep seed off the ground because seed attracts many small mammals foxes prey upon. Remove feeders if foxes are regularly seen around your yard. Feed pets indoors. Outdoor feeding attracts many wild animals.
Close off crawl spaces under porches and sheds – Foxes use such areas for resting and raising young.
Don’t let foxes intimidate you – Don’t hesitate to scare or threaten foxes with loud noises, bright lights or water.
Educate your neighbors – Pass this information along since your efforts will be futile if neighbors are providing food or shelter for foxes.