Questions about Fox behavior (rabies?)


12 Years
Aug 13, 2007
near Charlotte NC
Last night as it was getting twilight, i was sitting here at the PC and I heard the dogs going nuts in the back yard. I got up to let them in so they wouldn't bother the neighbors, and saw a commotion.

There was a FOX in the neighbors yard, and apparently their dog had attacked it. It then came running over to my fence. My dogs were going nuts-o trying to get to it and instead of running away, the fox was trying to dig under the fence and 'fence fighting' my dogs.

Finally we pulled our dogs away from the fence and got them in the house.

Then the fox went around the back of my fence and over by the chickens. Instead of showing any interest in the chicken, he saw Wilbur (my outside dogs) and attacked the fence where he was also. Finally it ran on off down across the creek.

My assumption was that it was rabid. Either that, or getting into the scuffle with the neighbor's dog got it so riled up that it was just in blind attack mode.


I can honestly say it was the first time in my life that I had a loaded firearm at the ready...


12 Years
Jul 1, 2007
Western, NY
I don't know about being Rabid, it could be, but the fight with the other dogs could have totally confused it. Not sure. If you neighbor isn't aware of the attack, you may want to say something to them though in case their dogs aren't up to date on shots....


12 Years
Aug 13, 2007
near Charlotte NC
Oh, the neighbors were out there with their dog and saw the whole thing. They don't have a fenced in yard, but they always go out with her and in the eve they like to sit on their deck and throw a frisbee/ball for her to chase. They got her off the fox and up on the deck just as I came out to see what was going on. They called 911 to report it. (sherrif's dept runs animal control here too) I haven't seen them today to ask how Andy is (the dog). If it had been my dog I'd have had her at the vet this morning for another rabies booster!

It made me just think again how GLAD I am to have a reasonably sturdy (4' chainlink) fenced area around the back yard for the kids and dogs.

All 4 of the kids were out there when this happened - but thankfully INSIDE the fence. Even if it had come under or over the fence it would have slowed the fox down long enough to let the kids get inside.

fried okra

11 Years
Mar 20, 2008
Sounds rabid to me. Foxes aren't normally gonna attack a dog, unless cornered, or run through a yard with people and a dog in it. And foxes ( along with racoons)are one of the main carriers of rabies. Of course it could have been just confused. Animal control should have looked into it more. I'd call'em and give'em hell.


In the Brooder
11 Years
Mar 22, 2008
South Carolina
I would believe it was rabid. I had an encounter with a rabid racoon that I shot in my yard last year (the only thing I've ever shot) Now might be a good time to make sure that all of your critters are current on their rabies shots and I would be ready to kill the fox if he comes back. The racoon I encountered was walking wobbly, looked like he had been going to the bathroom all over himself and was stumbling around in my yard in the middle of the day five feet from my back door. He had to go. It still killed me to shoot it.


12 Years
Jan 27, 2007
Behavior suggests rabies. It is one thing for a fox to go `blood simple' after it actually sinks its teeth into prey (will continue to try to kill/drag/carry off prey even though it is being shot at from close range). And, if the fox takes off without its prey, go grab your rifle and wait for a bit, the fox will almost always return within the hour to try again.

However, the behavior described seems similar to that illustrated in the links below:


11 Years
12 Years
Jan 25, 2008
It is hard to tell, especially since those of us online, did not see the incident or have personal experience with a fox's normal behavior.

I can see an animal like a fox go into a beserk mode, especially after being attacked by a dog. You have to see it through the perspective of the fox. Imagine yourself casually walking through a backyard(I doubt they have concepts of backyards but still) and all of a sudden your jumped by a bigger stronger animal. You fight back for your life, and it seems to work, the animal that jumped you has now backed off and is on the deck(human perspective: owners pulled dog off). You look around for an escape and in your panic, you see more of these ferocious animals barking furiously at you. I can see a panicked animal deciding to fight instead of flee, especially a predator like a fox.

LOL, you can understand the poor guy not taking an interest in the chicks, who wants to go to McDonalds after a near-death experience?

Then again, what time was the fox out and about? Was it mid-day, a time not typical of them? Did the fox go into the backyard with the dog, or did the owners see the fox and turn their dog loose to run it off, not expecting the dog to catch it?

The fox may have very well been rabid. Either way, it wouldn't end well for the fox had he been in my neighborhood, I would have shot it, whether he was being defensive or being rabid. If the fox wasn't rabid, you can probably expect him not to come back after that traumatic event.

**If it does come back, it obviously wasn't phased by the usually traumatic event.. Make sure to shoot the animal, and save the corpse for a test(call animal control and tell them the body is waiting for them)**

Keep a close eye on the dogs, and if they act strange report them and the incident to animal control. Sometimes owners can't bring themselves to do what needs to be done with a rabid animal.

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Flock Mistress
12 Years
Apr 20, 2007
Ontario, Canada
Weirdly, I am currently writing an article about rabies and happen to have the 2006 (most recent) CDC rabies data compilation already open in another window on my computer... too strange.

At least as of 2006, there was a respectably high incidence of rabies in foxes in NC (50 reported cases, which is less than the almost 300 raccoon cases but more than any other state besides VA) and rabies incidence in general in NC is still pretty high. And as you say, the behavior certainly does make you go Hmmmm.

I *hope* your dogs (if there is any possibility they could have been bitten or exposed to flying drool), and your neighbor's, are vaccinated? If they are not, unfortunately you know what the safe (and legally required) thing to is do, from a human health and safety standpoint...

If the dogs *have* been vaccinated, but have been bitten or in a substantial fur-flying fight with the animal even if no bite wounds are found, you're supposed to revaccinate them immediately and keep under close quarantine for 45 days, reporting any symptoms of illness to a vet.<-- edited to correct info in that paragraph

(FWIW, I spent this morning digging up statistics, and it would appear that best estimates suggest that if an animal *is* rabid, an unvaccinated human who is bitten etc has ON AVERAGE a 15-20% chance of dying of rabies from it unless prompt [and expensive] post-exposure shots are given; the transmission rate when an animal bites another animal is on average a good bit higher)

The problem is that rabies often becomes contagious *before* symptoms are apparent. And it is pretty much 100% fatal. Hence the draconian laws about euthanizing exposed unvaccinated animals and quarantining vaccinated ones.

Before widespread vaccination of dogs in the US, something like 100 people per year died of rabies (and a whale of a lot of dogs too), down now to more like 1 or 2 people per year and they're not generally infected by dogs.

Good luck,

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