A gray fox recently attacked and bit three hikers in Saguaro National Park in Southern Arizona. According to a Facebook post, the Arizona Game and Fish Department (AZGFD) confirmed that the fox had rabies.

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The attacks occurred on April 3 and 4 on the Hugh Norris Trail. AZDFG officials said that two of the hikers used trekking poles to fend off the rabid fox. All three hikers received minor injuries and were treated with rabies shots.  

National Park Service (NPS) officials initially closed the Hugh Norris Trail to the public following the spate of the attacks. Later, the fox approached an AZDFG official and was shot and killed. 

The incidents are not isolated. Earlier this year, the NPS warned visitors to Saguaro National Park to take extra precautions in light of possible rabies cases at the park, due to “reports of deceased animal and strange wildlife behavior.” Additionally, a bobcat suspected to be rabid attacked and sent a 66-year-old to the hospital in a January 21 attack. In a separate incident, a rabid gray fox bit someone in a picnic area on Mount Lemmon near Tucson in March. 

“It came up to me and lunged toward my feet,” victim Jorie O’Brien told 13 News following that attack. “I started kicking it in the head. That’s when it started biting me.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, rabies is a “fatal but preventable viral disease.” The illness is spread to people from bites and scratches from rabid wild animals. Peoples’ pets can also be carriers of the disease. The disease impacts the central nervous system. But victims of rabid animal attacks can take a course of rabies vaccine shots to kill the virus. 

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Following the spate of attacks, AZGFD officials are warning the public to avoid oddly behaving wildlife and keep their pets up-to-date on their rabies vaccinations. “In Arizona, the principal rabies hosts are bats, skunks and foxes,” said Dr. Anne Justice-Allen, AZGFD wildlife veterinarian in a statement. “These animals carry their own distinct strains of the rabies virus. When rabies activity within these animal groups increases, rabies can impact other mammals, such as bobcats, coyotes, javelina, cats, dogs, horses, and cows.”