Fox attack on Keuka Lake

John Christensen
The Chronicle Express

Rabid fox attacks three women now undergoing treatment for injuries and rabies infection.

BARRINGTON – Three women were injured in separate attacks the afternoon of March 24 in the 900 block area of East Lake Road on Keuka Lake in the town of Barrington.

According to the reports filed by Yates County Animal Control Officer Tom Morris, around 2 p.m., Emily O'Brien, 69, of 870 East Lake Road, was walking on the beach when she was bitten several times on the leg in an unprovoked attack by an aggressive fox. She was able to kick the animal away and was taken to Soldiers & Sailors Memorial Hospital in Penn Yan for treatment. 

Meanwhile, Sandra Murrin, 77, of 911 East Lake Road, was vacuuming her car when she felt a bite on the back of her leg. She swatted backward at the fox and received bites to her hand. The fox then attacked her shin and bit her several times there. Murrin then punched the top of the fox's head with her fist, and the animal retreated under the car, taking the handheld vacuum with it.

Tom Murrin drove his wife to the emergency room at Soldiers & Sailors immediately, where they happened to run into Officer Morris, who had just taken the information from O'Brien. "You're the second victim," Morris told Sandra, and he left for her address. He arrived there to the sound of screams.

Elizabeth Jameson, 59, of 986 East Lake Road, was walking along the road just north of Murrins' home when she caught sight out of the corner of her eye of something moving in the bushes. The same aggressive fox ran at her and jumped up, biting her thigh.

"I was a Girl Scout and grew up on a farm, so I knew not to run," said Jameson. Instead, she had the presence of mind to grab the fox and throw herself down on top of it as hard as she could, immobilizing the animal tightly on the ground with her body. 

"I knew if I let up just the slightest, it would start biting again," said Jameson.

As she desperately held down the fox, she screamed for help, but being early spring, there were few residents nearby to hear her.

Within moments of this, Morris arrived, and followed the screams to where Jameson was. Using a noose stick, he got it between Jameson's body and the fox. Holding the animal down, he instructed Jameson to quickly roll away when he counted three. She did so, and Morris killed the fox with one shot from his sidearm. He collected the body, which was immediately sent to Albany for testing.

Jameson also went to Soldiers & Sailors to seek treatment, joining O'Brien and Murrin. There, the three women had to have two shots on each side of every wound the fox inflicted. Murrin described them as painful, with a burning sensation. 

The test results were returned by Friday night with a call from Yates County Public Health. Each woman will also need follow-up shots scheduled for March 31, April 7, 14, and 25. Jameson, who is a professor of Nursing at Seton Hall University, says they also received a shot of rabies immunoglobulin, derived from the blood of other rabies victims.

Both Murrin and Jameson, who Murrin described as "the hero of the day" were surprised by how healthy the fox looked; not at all like other rabid animals they had seen and heard of. They advise everyone else in the area to be on their guard when outside, especially when with children and pets.

"It's a very rare occurrence for there to be multiple persons attacked by a fox, even if it is found to be sick," said Lt. Edwin Nemitz of the Yates County Sheriff's Office.

A healthy appearing fox, similar to this one, attacked three women in separate incidents March 24 on Keuka Lake. Tests showed the animal to be rabid.