Last week, a red fox became famous for frequenting the U.S. Capitol and biting at least nine people, including California Representative Ami Bera. Health officials suspected the fox might be rabid due to the unusually aggressive behavior, so they captured the animal on Tuesday.
“The D.C. Public Health Lab has confirmed the fox that was captured yesterday tested positive for the rabies virus,” the city’s public health agency said. “D.C. Health is contacting all victims who were bitten by the fox.”
The animal quickly became known as the “Capitol Fox” and was instantly sensationalized on the Internet. Someone even made it a Twitter account. No surprise, some of these folks didn’t take kindly to animal control euthanizing the fox for rabies testing. The Twitter account bio reads, “Red. ‘Aggressive.’ Murdered in cold blood.”
“Aggressive” and “rabid” aren’t quite the same things, though. And not to be the bearer of bad news, but that animal was going to die anyway. Wildlife infected with the rabies virus usually die within a week of showing symptoms. Euthanizing this fox was an act of mercy, but more importantly, a matter of public health. The most effective method to test for rabies requires a brain tissue sample.
The @capitolfox Twitter feed demonstrates an astounding lack of knowledge and unhinged anthropomorphism. It currently has 5,000 followers and growing. The most recent post of a candlelight memorial for the fox in front of the Capitol Building has almost 20,000 likes.
A scroll down the feed reveals a video featuring clips of the fox and one person screaming as if they just witnessed the murder of some dearly beloved. Dubbed over the short video is the sound of the sad, stereotypical Sarah McLachlan song that animal advocacy groups overuse with the sentiment “absolutely beautiful.”
And the disturbing level of disregard shown for the severity of a rabies outbreak is widespread. The disease has been controlled in this country, but it’s still fatal if not treated immediately. This lack of common sense was even demonstrated by those responsible for making important policy decisions that impact our daily lives.
“My heart leapt with joy to hear about Capitol fox families,” Rep. Andy Levin Tweeted. “We need more wild creatures around here and less wild conspiracies. Maybe these foxes protecting their kits can inspire us to protect our children from gun violence. The possibilities are endless! I stand with @thecapitolfox!”
Apparently these folks have never seen Old Yeller.
Rep. Bera, who is also a medical doctor, tweeted: “Despite the dustup, I hold no grudge or ill will against @thecapitolfox. Hoping the [fox emoji] and its family are safely relocated and wishing it a happy and prosperous future.”
The fox did have kits. And because the rabies virus is transmitted through saliva, they were likely exposed. Officials decided to euthanize the kits as well, so as to not risk further transmission. @thecapitolfox account called this measure of public safety “officially a mass murder.”
Featured images via @CapitolPolice.