SHOW LOW, Ariz. — The Arizona Game and Fish Department reminds residents and outdoor recreationists in the Show Low and Pinetop area to protect themselves and their pets by keeping a safe distance from wildlife, especially animals that may be behaving abnormally, are overly aggressive, or are lacking a fear of humans.

The Navajo County Public Health Services District (NCPHSD) reports that there have been four instances of wild foxes approaching and attacking humans and domesticated animals since Jan. 13 in southern Navajo County. The carcasses of two of the foxes were sent to the state laboratory and both tested positive for rabies.

Rabies is a preventable viral disease most often transmitted by the bite of or contact with saliva of an infected animal. The majority of rabies cases reported each year occur in wild animals such as bats, raccoons, skunks, and foxes, although any mammal can get rabies.

The rabies virus causes severe damage to the central nervous system and usually leads to death once symptoms appear, but human exposures to rabid animals are usually rare and can be treated through prompt administration of anti-rabies vaccine and rabies immune globulin. If someone has been bitten by an animal or had contact with the saliva of a wild animal, NCPHSD advises them to seek immediate medical attention. Rabies treatment, if needed, must begin quickly.

“People should continue to enjoy the outdoors, but just be aware of your surroundings and keep a safe distance from wildlife,” said AZGFD Wildlife Manager Cody Johnston. “If you see an animal acting abnormally, contact the Arizona Game and Fish Department or the Navajo County Sheriff’s Office.”

Domestic animals, such as cats and dogs, often come into contact with wild animals and are at an increased risk. It is important to make sure that rabies vaccinations are up-to-date for pets and any valuable livestock or horses for whom a rabies vaccine is available. If a pet is exposed to a high-risk wild animal such as a bat, skunk, raccoon, fox or coyote, contact a veterinarian immediately.

The Navajo County Public Health Services District and Arizona Game and Fish Department offer these tips to help prevent exposure to or spread of rabies:
– Keep your distance from wild animals or stray domesticated animals and do not have physical contact with them.
– Never bring wild animals into your home. Do not try to nurse sick wild animals back to health. Call animal control for assistance.
– Do not feed or unintentionally attract wild animals with open garbage cans or litter.
– Ensure that your pets are up to date on their rabies vaccine.
– Keep pets on a leash while recreating in the outdoors.
– Teach children to never handle unfamiliar animals, wild or domestic, even if they appear friendly.
– Maintain homes and other buildings to prevent unwanted animals from getting inside.

A bite from a bat is difficult to detect, therefore if you find a bat in your home, do not release the bat back to the outdoors until speaking with animal control or public health officials, as the bat may need to be captured for rabies testing to determine if you need rabies treatment.

To report a bite from a wild animal or an animal acting suspicious, please call the Arizona Game and Fish Department at 623-236-7201. In an emergency, call 911.

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File photo of a healthy gray fox.

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