It was only four months ago that a gray fox made a bee line toward Norman Kenney outside his home in Maine. The 88-year old stomped it to death.
Then, early Friday evening, just home from the store, Kenney closed his garage door. He heard a mew sound, and thought it was his cat. “Come on April, let’s go,” he said he called out.
But the animal was another fox, and it charged at him, biting his face and hands, knocked him to the driveway and sent his glasses tumbling.
So what is it about Kenney that fills the common fox with frothy rage?
“I wish I knew,” he told The Washington Post by phone on Tuesday, shortly before officials said the fox in last week’s attack tested positive for rabies.
In this attack, the fox gave more fight than the other, he said. The former fire chief, a stout 200 pounds, wrestled the animal for at least 12 minutes, he said. Kenney had a folding cane, but it collapsed with each blow, eroding into a clunky weapon that only agitated the fox, which he estimated was about 30 pounds.
Kenney gave up the cane and grabbed the fox by his throat. His hands wandered for the shape of his windpipe and bared down. The fox struggled, and under Kenney’s thrashed hands, he felt pulsating blood under the coat.
“I knew I wasn’t squeezing hard enough,” Kenney said.
Both the fox and Kenney were struggling to breathe. A neighbor, out for a jog, came upon the scene, Kenney said, and he advised the teenager to put his foot on the animal’s neck — similar to what Kenney himself did in his first attack.
He handed the teen his cellphone, dripping with blood that obscured the keypad, Kenney said, but the neighbor managed to call the police. Kenney was being loaded onto the ambulance when three shots from a police .22-caliber rifle rang out, he said. The fox was dead.
Kenney, who retired form Bath Fire Department as chief, joked about the role reversal, he said. “I told the boys, ‘I’ve ridden in the back of ambulances before, but this was the first time as a patient.’ “
Kenney received treatment and antibiotics for potential exposure to rabies, he said. His most serious injury was to a thumb, Kenney said, with the fox’s tooth ripping at his left eye lid, barely missing his eyeball. That one has cataracts anyway, he said.
In West Bath, a fox attacked two men and ran off with a shoe, the Portland Press Herald reported.
Officials acknowledged it was strange for a resident to be attacked by foxes in separate incidents.
Kenney believes there is a fox den near his home, which is surrounded by gardens and sheds were foxes hide and search for squirrels, trash and compost heaps.