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Fox attacks bring eerie quiet to Newbury

NEWBURY — Summer afternoons outside Linda Garand’s two-story home usually unfold amid a seasonal soundtrack of whirring lawnmowers, barking dogs, and laughing children.

But on Monday, the intersection of Marsh Avenue and Newbury Neck Road was nearly silent as families took cover inside after a recent string of attacks in the area by foxes believed to be carrying rabies.

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Garand’s 36-year-old daughter was bitten July 11, when a fox charged her as she stood in her mother’s driveway around sunset.

“It came straight at me and just nipped me,” Megan Richard said. “I was like ‘no, no, no!’ ”

There have been three other fox attacks since then in this North Shore town, said Newbury police Sergeant Patty Fisher. Residents said they have received telephone calls warning them about multiple rabid foxes.

The most recent attack occurred Saturday afternoon when a fox emerged from the woods and bit a resident around 5 p.m. Police believe they have found that fox, and it was euthanized.

Richard suffered the first known attack, when the furry mammal bit her left leg, leaving an arc-shaped wound.

She has undergone a regimen of shots to prevent rabies transmission.

“Now we’re afraid to even mow our lawn,” her mother said. “We shouldn’t be walking.”

Garand said she was with another resident when he was attacked Saturday afternoon. She said a fox broke out of the bushes and began running toward her and the neighbor. The neighbor had been carrying groceries inside, she said.

“We’re on high alert,” she said. “I’ve never seen anything like this.”

While there are between 50,000 and 70,000 rabies-related deaths across the world every year, people rarely die of rabies in the United States, said Dr. Catherine Brown, the Massachusetts public health veterinarian. Two state residents died of the disease between 2011 and 2012.

Left untreated, the disease can be fatal, Brown said. In addition to foxes, rabies can be spread to humans by bats, raccoons, and skunks, among other mammals.

“That bite actually serves to inject the saliva and the virus into a wound,” Brown said. “It’s a penetrating entry. And the virus gets in there and starts replicating.”

The town has distributed fliers to residents warning them to keep pets indoors, supervise children when they are outside, alert authorities about wildlife that appears sick, remove bird feeders, and secure all garbage in metal containers.

On Monday afternoon, Richard sat at home watching her three children — ages 11, 8, and 5 — playing with a train set. Her husband Tim and her mother sat around the living room, along with the family cat. They were afraid to leave.

“I’m afraid to leave my front door,” Garand said. “I’ve been here 61 years, and I’ve never been afraid to leave my front door.”

Faiz Siddiqui can be reached at faiz.siddiqui@globe.com.
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