BRUNSWICK — A fox shot by a resident after it challenged a pair of dogs last week has tested positive for rabies, a state health official confirmed.
The latest incident shows that rabies is spreading deeper into the state’s midcoast region, said Phil Haines, a lab testing director with the Department of Human Services.
Rabid foxes plagued Maine from the 1960s through the early 1980s before disappearing.
Last fall, they reappeared with three rabid foxes identified in Richmond. Since then, they have been found in Gardiner, Bowdoinham, Lisbon, Topsham and now Brunswick.
“Geographically, it’s pretty widespread already,” said Haines, who had warned in October that rabid foxes likely would cross the frozen Androscoggin River during the winter.
The Brunswick fox was shot by Herb Weber after he found it standing outside an electric fence staring at his dog, a Brittany spaniel that was barking wildly.
Weber suspected the animal might be rabid because it was so bold in challenging the dog. “It’s an unusual thing for a wild animal. I said, `Gee, that animal is sick,”‘ he said.
Jennifer Burns, a neighbor, said the fox had been bothering her dog, which was tied up in her yard, only minutes earlier. “The dog and the fox were in a three-foot standoff,” she said.
Residents can fight the spread of rabies by having pets vaccinated, feeding pets indoors, keeping trash containers tightly closed and avoiding feeding wild animals or stray dogs and cats, Haines said.