Well it’s bad enough that foxes already have to deal with increasing amounts of frost-resistant Trichina worms being all up in their shit (hopefully not literally), but it’s just been reported that the rabies virus could become a real threat to their US populations too.
Originating from bats, rabies would ordinarily be passed from bat to fox via a scratch or a bite, the infected fox unlikely to spread the virus any further before death. However, a particular strain of the disease, the northern-Arizona rabies virus, appears to be evolving faster than any new strain on record, and has mutated to be transmitted in much the same way as a common cold.
And it’s not just foxes that are affected by the strain, skunks and possibly raccoons can also pass the disease on to their kin, so northern Arizona is likely to become borderline-apocalyptic in the near future. Thousands of foamy-mouthed twitchy small- to medium-sized woodland creatures are going to be running up and down trees and onto hiking tracks all snappy and incapable of reason before unfortunate nature enthusiasts know what’s hit them. And the only solution I could come up with to stifle this epidemic is to have them all wear tiny cotton face masks over their snouts.
Of course this was work-shopped and admittedly ended in disaster, the foxes and skunks momentarily removing them to gnaw at a persistent tick on their haunch, only to find that there was no one around with hands to help put them back on when they were done. Good one, woodland creatures. Now we’re all going to have to stockpile hundreds of tins of pear halves and board our windows because it’s going to be like 28 Days Later. Only with foxes.
Picture from the Smithsonian Museum’s Nature’s Best Photography Exhibition 2007.