Sundays have become the day we take Francisco on an "adventure walk" which might be to the river, or to the pioneer cemetery, or down some ranch road. Although he is on leash, he loves to flush deer and other critters from the brush.
This week it was quite an adventure for us all. We came upon a beautiful fox trapped in a deadly snare fighting for its life. This is likely the same fox who keeps our field mice population in check that was sighted in our pumpkin patch this summer by our farm sitter.
Foxes mostly eat rodents, beetles, berries, and occasionally birds. They are not predators of cattle, so there was no sense to this trap. We raise chickens and have not lost any to the fox or other predators, only to our own dogs. Out of compassion we returned with various snipping implements to free him.
A snare is like a small braided metal noose with a Chinese torture device attached--the more the animal struggles, the tighter the noose becomes, unable to release the tension. Fortunately this fellow caught it in his mouth and was not exactly choking to death but he was frantically trying to chew through it and cutting up his mouth.
We could not find any of our umpteen pairs of gloves. The snare was so tight our long armed loppers were useless, and might have done more damage than the snare. Time was running out, so I just grabbed him and instead of fighting he just relaxed in my arms so that the tin snips could do their work. My first thought was he would instantly bound away, but he just laid in my arms and nuzzled his snoot into my coat.
He willingly got in the car with us, and I took him into our infamous guest bathroom, which has been a recovery ward for many animals, both domestic and wild. He let me feed him electrolyte solution with an eye dropper, and clean the blood out of his mouth. I checked him all over to make sure he didn't have any other injuries. His stomach gurgled and he let out a belch that smelled like road kill. Then he gave a sigh just like my dogs do, and fell asleep in my arms.
I petted and massaged him for half an hour, then transferred him to a pet carrier. I checked him every half hour and petted him through the grill. After about four hours of rest I knew he was better when he gave me a wild look of defiance, as to say "Oh, yeah, now I remember, I'm a fox!" So we loaded him up and released him in a large protected natural area. He took off in the direction of our place, so maybe we'll see him again.
Monday I was at the veterinarians getting shots for a couple of our dogs, and on hearing my story the vet said "Well, at least you didn't get bit" and then I admitted I did. You see, the last time I reached in to pet him, he tapped my thumb. It happened so quickly at first I didn't realize it until I saw blood coming from the teeth marks above my thumbnail. "It was just a little bite". Then I learned foxes are one of the high risk rabies carriers in our area. I hadn't thought about that. He recommended I go immediately to my doctor. I told him I'd be OK and would take my chances. He said "It's been nice knowing you".
I went to my doctor who sent me to the State Department of Health, where I learned all about rabies, how the shots had to be dispensed within 72 hours (it had already been 24) and the exorbitant cost of the vaccine--$1,400 not including my doctor's fee to administer them. I called my insurance company whose rep told me the health department was not "in-network" yet could not direct me to an in-network provider.
My husband took the news well and was supportive of my dilemma. After all, he wasn't exactly a bystander in all this. He had just spent the day building a new greenhouse door, and was grappling with the fact it was upside down and inside out from what he'd planned and was going to have to rip it apart and re-do it. His mistake only cost $14 and a half day of work. (He finished it today and it's fabulous!) He is so wonderfully understanding.
Researching Texas rabies statistics online, it appeared every one in four fox bites turned out to be rabid. That's a 25% chance on 100% fatality. My homesteading friends encouraged me to get them. Tuesday I picked up the vials, signing the Human Rabies Biologicals Payment Agreement and Surveillance Report, and headed over to my doctor's. The nurses prepared a bouquet of syringes. I got two shots of Human Rabies Immune Globulin in the top of my thumb (@#%&!), and the rest of that in two shots in the same arm. Then, six shots of Rabavert divided between my two shoulders. I left with cotton wads taped to both shoulders looking like I'd had wings amputated.
I go back tomorrow for another round of shots, and three more times this month. The good news is I ought to be covered another 30 years for rabies so if you amortize it the cost doesn't sound so bad. Hey, we might even get to itemize medical expenditures for once on our taxes. Knowing me I will find another occasion to stick my thumb into a wild creature's mouth. (We have since purchased many new pairs of gloves).
Watching the fox bound away was entirely worth it.