ALBANY — An Albany Police officer, responding to a call Sunday about a fox menacing people in northwest Albany, was bitten and scratched before killing the animal with a service weapon.
Officer Richard Taylor responded to the call at a residence on West Doublegate Drive and was advised that a fox was hiding in a drainage ditch in the front yard of the home, according to a report from Albany Police Department spokesperson Phyllis Banks.
Upon approaching the ditch, Taylor was attacked by the animal, later confirmed to be a fox, and received a bite and multiple scratches, before firing five shots and killing the animal.
Taylor was then taken to Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital for treatment, which included the officer being started on a series of rabies treatments.
It was not immediately known if the fox was rabid, but animal control and environmental control recovered the carcass to test for rabies.
Banks said Taylor, who has been on the Albany police force since November 2011, was likely responding to the call in the name of duty, despite the fact that the APD does not typically handle calls about wild animals.
“We’re really not supposed to handle calls like that,” said Banks.
The biting of Taylor marks the third known fox bite to occur in Dougherty County in the last three years and brings to light the fact that there are currently no local agencies that handle calls about nuisance wildlife.
Local Animal Control agents are not trained to deal with wild animals and deal strictly with pet control related to dogs and feral cats.
While the Georgia Department of Natural Resources (DNR) can provide useful information, including a list of for hire companies that handle wild animal trapping, on its website www.georgiawildlife.com/nuisancewildlife, there is no local DNR office that can respond to any calls concerning wild animals.
“We have no staff to respond to a call about a fox or a raccoon or other animal that people are always encountering in Southwest Georgia,” said DNR spokesperson Melissa Cummings.
Cummings said residents who are concerned about animals such as skunks, raccoons, foxes, deer, coyotes and bear, that can sometimes be seen in suburban areas, should follow certain precautions to avoid those animals becoming a nuisance.
The DNR advises that residents never feed wildlife, keep items such as grills stored when not in use, keep bird feeders off-limits and filled with small amounts of food, keep pet food indoors, and make sure outside trash can lids are secured.
“Wildlife can, and will, take advantage of easy food opportunities,” said DNR wildlife biologist John Bowers. “So, it is our job as homeowners to ensure that we are keeping these non-natural foods away from wildlife.”
While most wild animals encountered in neighborhood settings pose little danger, the DNR does advise residents to take steps such as getting pets vaccinated, avoiding physical contact with wildlife and instructing children not to play with or bring home wildlife, to protect their family from illnesses such as rabies.
If residents observe an animal that is behaving in a sick or disturbed manner, such as drooling or weaving, they are instructed to avoid the animal and contact the nearest Wildlife Resources Division office. In Albany that office can be reached at (229) 430-4254.
Anyone who is bitten by wildlife is advised to call 911 and seek treatment immediately.