A gray fox, similar to the one that state and federal wildlife officials are looking for after it bit a boy at Rose Canyon Lake campground on Sunday.

State and federal wildlife officials have temporarily closed Rose Canyon Lake campground on Mt. Lemmon while they search for a potentially rabid fox that bit a 12-year-old Tucson boy on Sunday.

The boy was playing with his dog at about 5 p.m., when the fox bit the boy's knees before running away, said Mark Hart, a spokesman for the Arizona Game and Fish Department.

The child has since been treated for his wounds at a local hospital and released.

The fox is assumed to still be in the area, since they have relatively small territories, Hart said.

The game and fish department recommended that Coronado National Forest officials close the campground Monday, and unsuccessfully tried to locate the fox using wildlife calls. The closure is expected to be short-term to allow for officials to further assess the situation, Hart said.

Since March, three clearly ill, dying or dead foxes have been recovered for rabies testing from the areas of Sweetwater Drive, Picture Rocks and Sabino Canyon.

An animal with rabies may appear disoriented or intoxicate, salivate heavily or appear thirsty, Hart said.

Anyone who believes they've spotted a rabid animal should avoid touching it, and instead call the game and fish department at 623-236-7201 or the Pima County Health Department at 724-7797.

It's also important to keep pets away from all wildlife and regularly vaccinate dogs, cats and horses against rabies.

If a pet is injured by wildlife, the owner should consult a veterinarian.

Rabies is preventable disease that attacks the central nervous system, causing swelling of the brain. By the times symptoms appear, it's almost always fatal, Hart said.

In Arizona, rabies is found primarily in bats, skunks and foxes, but when rabies activity within these species increases, it can "spill over" into other mammals, including bobcats, coyotes, javelina, cats, dogs, horses and cows.

Roughly 15 people in Arizona are exposed to rabid animals each year.

Contact reporter Caitlin Schmidt at cschmidt@tucson.com or 573-4191


I'm a watchdog reporter covering local government, the University of Arizona and sports investigations.