BLAIRSTOWN — A woman used cat chow, a shovel and an ax to defend herself from a rabid gray fox that bit her on Saturday.

Blairstown Township Animal Control Officer Scott Hendricks told NJ.com a woman was bit twice in the leg inside her barn.  The fox had already killed one of the cats that lived in garage and was not deterred from coming at her as she threw cat food to keep it away, Henricks said.

The woman's adult daughter came outside and threw an ax at the fox, which bit it before lunging at her. The woman used her shovel to knock out the fox and hold it down until it died.

Test results on Wednesday confirmed the fox had rabies, according to Hendricks, who advised residents to be aware of their surroundings and to not approach animals they believe may be rabid.

According to the state Department of Environmental Protection, gray foxes resemble small, slightly built dogs and are common in New Jersey. They are not often seen because they prefer wooded, bushy and rocky areas and are nocturnal.

Rabies is caused by a virus that can infect all warm-blooded mammals, including humans. The rabies virus is found in the saliva of a rabid animal and is transmitted by bite, or possibly by contamination of an open cut. Raccoon and bat variants of rabies are prevalent in New Jersey but it can also be found in skunks, groundhogs, foxes and cats.

The Middlesex County Health Department shared these guidelines to prevent rabies during an outbreak in 2018.

1. Immediately report a bite from a wild or domestic animal to your local health department. Wash animal bite wounds thoroughly with soap and water as soon as possible. Contamination of open cuts and scratches with saliva of potentially rabid animals should also be washed off immediately.

2. Consult a physician as soon as possible.

3. Immediately report any wild animals showing signs of unusual behavior:

• Moves slowly
• May act as if tame
• Appears sick
• Has problems swallowing
• Has an increase in saliva
• Has increased drooling
• Acts aggressive
• Has difficulty moving
• Has paralysis
• Bites at everything if excited

4. Be sure that all family pets are up to date on their rabies vaccination. If unsure, please call your veterinarian. Call your local health department for free rabies vaccination clinic availability.

5. Animal-proof your home and yard. Make sure all garbage containers have tight fitting lids, do not leave pet food or water outside, do not allow rainwater to collect in outdoor containers or equipment and keep yard free of garbage and debris.

6. Do not feed or handle wild animals.

7. Avoid contact with stray animals or pets other than your own.

8. Try to prevent your pets from coming into contact with wild animals.

9. Screen off vents to attics and other areas that could provide shelter for bats.

Contact reporter Dan Alexander at Dan.Alexander@townsquaremedia.com or via Twitter @DanAlexanderNJ

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