By Eli Goldfarb
LIBERTY On July 4, Town of Liberty Animal Control Officer Joanne Gerow received a call that an unidentified animal had attacked several people over a 24-hour period at the Summer Gala bungalow colony on Old White Lake Turnpike in Swan Lake.
The day before, two people, a five year old girl and her mother, were attacked by the animal at around 7:30 p.m. The girl was bitten on the arm, and was later sent to the hospital for rabies treatment. Her mother fought the animal off, and was bitten in the leg. Fortunately, only her pants were damaged, and she was unharmed. The next day, an 84-year-old woman was attacked in the same area. Like the child, she was also sent to the hospital to receive rabies treatment.
Gerow arrived on the scene later that day and, after talking to and reassuring the concerned residents of the colony, got to work surveying the area and laying traps.
Gerow and her colleagues checked up on the traps three times that night, with no success. However, at about 4 p.m. on Tuesday, they found a sick grey fox wandering around the area.
“The fox was obviously ill,” said Gerow. “It was staggering and disoriented. It clearly didn’t have a normal gait.” Eventually, the fox did enter the trap, and was immediately taken to Dr. Joseph Nebzydoski in Youngsville, where it was euthanized and samples were sent to Griffith Labs in upstate NY. It tested positive for rabies, but it is still unknown whether or not it was the animal that attacked the three people in the colony.
Gerow urges people to be cautious and take steps to ensure that they don’t get attacked in this way. The first of these is to get your pet vaccinated.
“The largest exposure to wild animals are our own animals. If you get your pets vaccinated, it creates a buffer between you and the wild animals.”
The second step is to keep your property clean and remove anything that might attract wild animals. Make sure any animal waste, garbage, and other such debris is properly disposed of, as all of these can attract wild animals.
The third step is to be aware of local wildlife. Be particularly cautious around nocturnal animals, such as raccoons and foxes, that are out during the day. If you do see such an animal in the day, stay well away from it and call your local police or public health office.
The Liberty Public Health office can be reached at 292-5910. There will be a rabies vaccination clinic in Liberty held on July 12 from 6-9 p.m. for any interested. The cost will be $6 for all those under 55, and $3 of those over 55.