WASHINGTON — The three children of a fox captured on Capitol grounds have been euthanized because they were exposed to their enraged mother, city health officials announced Thursday, in a tragic new twist in the saga. canine that has taken over Washington.
“Three fox kits were recovered from the den site of the fox who tested positive for rabies,” the DC Health statement read. “Since the mother tested positive for the rabies virus and the kits could have been exposed during grooming or other means, they could no longer be safely rehabilitated and were humanely euthanized. .”
The announcement added another grim revelation to the story of a feral red fox that had roamed the Capitol grounds and briefly captivated those who live and work around Congress. Lawmakers, aides and reporters had initially reacted with bewilderment and awe at the animal’s presence — then with sadness and concern when the Capitol fox was euthanized so it could be tested for rabies.
The late vixen’s children – known as the kits – were found and captured on Wednesday, around the same time their mother was captured. A statement from DC Health had said officials were determining what to do with the youngsters.
Then came the news that the mother had tested positive for rabies. It sparked a flurry of speculation about who might have been exposed to the deadly virus. The fox bit at least nine people on Capitol Hill on Tuesday, and maybe a congressman the day before. The attending physician for Congress did not respond to requests for comment.
Rep. Ami Bera, a California Democrat who said he was bitten by a fox near the Capitol on Monday night and treated soon after, said Wednesday he felt “in good health” and was back at work.
Ximena Bustillo, food and agriculture policy reporter for Politico who had been bitten Tuesday, said Wednesday that she had received a first round of rabies treatment.
DC Health officials did not respond to questions about other bite victims, or whether additional action would be taken for the local fox population. A previous statement from the health agency said it “would not be rounding up healthy foxes in the area”, but that was before the captured fox turned out to be rabid.
There is a long history of small animals roaming the Capitol grounds. There have been several recorded incidents of raccoons basking on the Capitol dome. One such raccoon was captured in 2015, lured into a holding cage with tuna, according to the Capitol Architect’s office.
Washington’s ubiquitous squirrels were introduced to the Capitol grounds as early as 1899 by Elliott Woods, who was later officially named the Capitol’s architect. (While the CDC notes that squirrels are not known to transmit rabies to humans, DC Health pointedly reminded residents not to feed squirrels.)
Mr. Woods also considered buying a flock of sheep to release and graze on the Capitol grounds. Ultimately, he turned down an offer from a Virginia farmer in 1921 – most likely out of the undying gratitude of the Capitol’s current occupants.
“The experiment has been tried in recent years around the White House and monument grounds,” Mr Woods wrote in response, suggesting it didn’t go well.
Other more recent experiences of support for local wildlife have met with more success. The Capitol Architect and City Wildlife built duck ramps in 2017 to help ducklings who had taken up residence in the Capitol’s reflecting pool enter and leave.
In January, a snowy owl that was seen perched on Senate buildings became a minor celebrity on Capitol Hill, where residents and congressional staff followed its movements, hoping for a glimpse.
And feral foxes have already wowed Congress (although they don’t have the horrifying development of a rabies diagnosis), with earlier iterations of the “Capitol Fox” appearing as recently as 2014.