Recent attacks on dogs by a rabid fox and a pack of coyotes have caused Weston Animal Control Officer Mark Harper to issue a warning to Weston residents.
“Be careful with your pets, especially at night and early morning. Do not let small dogs out unattended,” he said.
The warning comes following an incident in which a red fox attacked a dog and then attempted to attack an animal control assistant that was trying to subdue it.
The fox was later determined to have rabies.
In another incident, a Weston family’s small dog was attacked and killed by a pack of coyotes, who were then heard “howling in celebration.”
On Saturday, Jan. 30, Animal Control Assistant Kris Zulkeski responded to a call from a resident that a fox was attacking a dog outside a home on Newtown Turnpike in Weston.
When Zulkeski arrived, he had the homeowner bring the dog inside the house. He then caught the fox by snaring it with a catchpole.
The fox was aggressive and tried to attack Zulkeski, but he avoided contact with it.
The fox was then euthanized and sent to the state viral lab to determine if it had rabies.
Harper received a call on Tuesday saying the fox had tested positive for the rabies virus.
“This is the first fox attack I’ve ever encountered in my many years as Weston’s animal control officer,” Harper said.
The fact the fox was rabid explained its aggressive behavior, according to Harper. “I figured the fox had rabies because it’s really unusual for a fox to attack dogs or a human,” he said.
Red foxes are widespread and abundant in Connecticut. They are accustomed to human activity and seldom are aggressive toward people, according to the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection.
But when foxes are rabid, that’s a different story, and they are quite dangerous. In 2014, a rabid fox attacked five people in East Windsor, including a 7-year-old boy on a school playground.
Harper said towns surrounding Weston have had reports of rabid foxes, but this was a first for Weston.
Rabies is a deadly viral disease that infects the central nervous system. All warm blooded mammals, including humans, can get rabies. The virus is transmitted through blood or saliva from infected mammals and is invariably fatal once symptoms appear.
Before an animal with rabies dies, it tends to behave unusually. Normally docile animals can suddenly become vicious, lose their fear of people, and be seen wandering about during the daytime.
The dog that survived the fox attack in Weston was current on its rabies vaccinations, so it likely will not contract the virus. Following the attack, the dog received a booster shot and was placed on strict home confinement for 45 days, according to Harper.
Harper is advising the public to call Animal Control immediately at 203-222-2642 if they see a fox behaving erratically,
The fox attack came on the heels of a report of a missing dog on Singing Oaks Drive.
Animal Control responded to a call that a family’s small black dog had gone missing the night before from their home on Singing Oaks Drive.
The family had let the dog out along with another dog. One dog came back later, but the small dog never returned.
Harper found the dog’s remains when he investigated the family’s yard the next day.
It was clear that the dog was killed by a pack of coyotes, he said.
“I saw where the attack took place. There were multiple tracks in the snow. A pack of coyotes got that dog,” Harper said.
A next door neighbor told Harper she heard multiple coyotes that night howling loudly in what sounded like “a celebration.”
Harper believes they were celebrating over their fresh kill.
He said the owners of the dog said they had seen a coyote on their property two days before the attack.
Coyote sightings have become increasingly common in Weston in the past few years. Harper said he’s received so many complaints about coyotes that he’s lost count.
Because coyotes rely heavily on meat in their diets, they are always on the prowl looking for food, and pets like small dogs and cats fit the bill.
“Coyotes are really, really smart. They will stake out an area and come back if they know animals are around and people may not be,” he said.
While coyotes usually are known to avoid people, a couple years ago an especially aggressive pack of coyotes at the Taylor Woods/Tall Pines Preserve followed people from the preserve to their homes. The preserve was closed until the coyotes left the area.
Harper said he plans to meet with residents of Singing Oaks Drive to discuss coyote problems in their neighborhood. He is asking residents who spot coyotes to call Animal Control at 203-222-2642 so he can keep track of their whereabouts.