A fox kit found on a Roseau County farm tested positive for rabies on July 5, 2019. The property owner reported that a month prior, an abnormally aggressive skunk wandered onto her farm and was killed by her three unvaccinated dogs. She used a shovel to move the dead skunk onto a burn pile on the property. Less than five days later, the skunk carcass disappeared. The owner noted fox tracks near the burn pile and later discovered skunk remains near a fox den, which had reportedly been on the property for several years. Two fox kits were observed near the den.
On June 29, the property owner noticed one of the fox kits appeared sick and disoriented, “flopping around and biting itself.” She captured the kit, placed it in a kennel to monitor it, and was bitten on the arm on July 1. The fox kit was euthanized and submitted for rabies testing to the Minnesota Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory. Rabies was confirmed on July 5. The exact whereabouts of the littermate and vixen are unknown at this time, although the property owner reported seeing both periodically since she was bitten.
After investigating, the Board of Animal Health made recommendations to the property owner to minimize further exposure to rabies including quarantining the three dogs exposed to the skunk for 180 days. The Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) recommended post-exposure prophylaxis for six potentially exposed people, including a family member that was reported to have been nipped by the rabid kit’s littermate.
This is the first rabies-positive fox in Minnesota in 2019. This case serves as a reminder that people should remain alert of the potential risk for rabies exposure when interacting with wildlife; handling wild animals should be avoided. Skunk encounters with domestic animals and/or people should be reported to the Board and the MDH, which assess rabies exposure risk and make recommendations on a case-by-case basis. Between January 1, 2019 and this alert, 11 rabies-positive animals have been reported in Minnesota, including six bats, four skunks and this fox.
For information on rabies in animals and to view a map of positive cases in Minnesota visit the Board’s website at this link. Call 651-201-6808 if you have questions about rabies exposure to domestic animals. If you have questions concerning rabies exposure to people, please contact the Minnesota Department of Health at 651-201-5414.
The Board recommends all dogs, cats, ferrets, and horses be currently vaccinated against the rabies virus. In the event an animal is exposed or potentially exposed, pets should be rabies vaccinated within 96 hours of exposure.