Police in Brunswick, Maine have issued a Code Red warning to the community that a rabies epidemic is widespread.
The department issued a robocall to all Brunswick residents Tuesday morning, after a fourth confirmed case of the virus.
Brandon Radzilowski was repairing his sister's patio on Bouchard Drive Friday when he noticed a fox emerge from the tree line in her backyard. At first, it appeared to be playing with a ball in the lawn, but then he saw the fox start to stalk the neighbor's cat.
"It was pretty nerve-wracking for a second," he said. He picked up a garden shovel and walked toward the neighbor's yard. That's when the fox came after him.
"As soon as it looked at me and started prancing, I wasn't taking that chance," he said. "I had this shovel in my hand. I picked it up and just swung at it."
After two blows from the shovel, the fox was dead. Radzilowski called animal control, who told him Monday the fox tested positive for rabies.
"I felt bad [about killing it] at first, but I've seen lots of foxes and I figured it had to have something wrong with it," he said.
Animal Control Officer Heidi Nelson said last year, Brunswick had a total of three rabies cases. They've already surpassed that in three weeks this year.
"It's something to be concerned about," she said. "It's not just one neighborhood, so we want to make the public aware it could be in your neighborhood."
Last month, a rabid skunk attacked two dogs. Days later, a rabid fox bit two neighbors. Last week, a rabid fox attacked a 95-year-old man, who bludgeoned it to death with a wooden board.
Radzilowski's sister, Kristin Bubar, had seen the news coverage about the previous rabies cases in Brunswick. She told her brother to keep his eye out for any strange wildlife in the area.
"Luckily he was paying attention," said Bubar. "Otherwise, somebody might have been bitten by a fox for sure."
Police say anyone who suspects they have come across a rabid animal should try to keep a safe distance from it and call police right away. If possible, keep an object between you and the animal. Pets should be up-to-date on rabies vaccines, and children should be watched carefully outside.
"We want to get the word out because everyone's going to be outside [for the holiday]" said Nelson.
The Brunswick Police Department can be reached at 207-725-5521. To have cell phones receive Cumberland County robocall messages, residents can follow the directions on the Cumberland County, Maine Code Red website.