Fox attacks two hikers
Sunday, May 03, 2009
PRESCOTT – Craig Leicht and Paul Janowski were enjoying their regular stroll along the three-mile loop of Prescott National Forest Trails 347 and 341 when a fox took a deadly interest in them.
At 6:45 p.m. Thursday, the Prescott neighbors were ending an otherwise routine hike on a trail near Granite Mountain, a mile west of Prescott’s municipal boundary and little more than a mile away from their homes, when the male animal attacked them.
Thanks to a quick response, Leicht, who moved here from Texas in February, and Janowski fended off and killed what they think was a rabid fox close to the trails’ far junction toward the bottom of a ravine. Neither of the men suffered bites or injuries.
“The fox appeared dazed, although he didn’t have any froth in his mouth,” said Janowski, 70, on Friday. “It was really weird, in a way.”
An Arizona Game and Fish Department official hauled away the fox’s body Friday morning and its frozen head will go to a state medical lab for testing Monday in Phoenix to determine whether it had rabies.
“The popular belief is that rabies tends to be cyclical in nature, and it’s just running its course throughout that area,” Game and Fish public information officer Zen Mocarski said. “Your odds of a wild animal encounter for the number of people that are outside still remains very low.”
Thursday’s incident was only one in a series of human vs. wild animal clashes during the past several months in Yavapai County, including the tri-city area.
“I looked ahead and saw something crouching on the trail, and I thought it was a bobcat in a hunched-down, crouching position,” Leicht said Friday about the fox encounter. “It was probably about 100 feet ahead or maybe more, so I bent down and picked up a rock just to scare it. By the time I stood up, this thing was about five feet away from me.”
Leicht, an anesthesiologist at Yavapai Regional Medical Center who lives in the Hokegon neighborhood off Iron Springs Road, about a mile west of Williamson Valley Road toward the Granite Mountain Wilderness Area, said he and Janowski were walking toward the latter’s residence when the incident happened.
“I threw a 15- to 20-pound boulder at the fox and it bounced off his back,” Leicht said. “I thought that would have deterred him, but he got up, came back at me, grabbed my pants leg, and I finally kicked him with my boot. He kept getting up and tried to attack again.”
At that point, Leicht kicked the fox as hard as he could, flinging it into a tree. Leicht and Janowski subsequently ambushed the animal and stoned it to death.
“I was surprised he was so aggressive and that it would come at me at such a distance,” Leicht said. “It was growling the whole way it was charging us. Once I kicked it a couple times, it would whimper and growl.”
One of Leicht’s neighbors plans to erect a homemade sign at the trailhead warning hikers about the possibility of having an encounter with a rabid animal.
Leicht recommends hikers carry hiking sticks and wear boots and long, baggy pants in case something happens.
“We didn’t have sticks or anything,” said Janowski, adding that he might start packing a .22-caliber pistol for safety when walking the trail. “It was very scary. I’m going to be very observant.”