Plan to trap rabid foxes spurs complaints in Maine


BATH, Maine (AP) — A city in Maine’s mid-coast area is having a difficult time managing cases of rabid wild animals, and a government plan to stop the disease has been met with some opposition.

Bath, a city of 8,000 people on the Kennebec River that is home to a large shipyard, had 16 animals test positive for rabies in 2019, the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife said. There were also 18 fox attacks on people and pets, and 11 of the attacks resulted in a person being bitten or scratched, the department said.

The wildlife department said in a statement that the “unusual number of aggressive fox attacks on people and domestic pets has raised human health and safety concerns.” U.S. Department of Agriculture Wildlife Services is proposing a “focused, localized trapping effort” to counter the problem, Maine’s statement said.

The state said raccoons, skunks and foxes caught in traps will be euthanized and tested for rabies. The plan to kill the trapped animals has prompted some animal lovers to protest, and they have created a Facebook group that had more than 300 members Friday. The group has called the euthanasia plan an “extreme measure.”

The Maine wildlife department said simply trapping and testing the animals won’t work because the rabies test requires brain tissue. It’s urging residents to vaccinate pets and livestock and stay away from wild animals.

State and federal government agencies use controlled trapping to manage some wildlife populations, Nate Webb, Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife division director, told the Portland Press Herald.

Rabies is a viral disease that infects the nervous system of mammals, including humans, so stopping the spread of the disease is a public health issue, he said.