BRUNSWICK, Maine (NECN) — A 95-year-old Maine man recently had to defend himself against a rabid fox by using a wooden plank.
Don't let his age or gentle demeanor fool you... Robert Galen can put up a fight. He proved it when a rabid fox attacked him in his backyard in Brunswick on Monday.
"It was almost a reflex," said Galen.
He was repairing a wooden plank on his deck and noticed something emerging from the tree line in front of him.
"He was right there in my face," he recalled.
Galen said he didn't have time think but luckily he was holding a wooden board.
"I must have hit it on the head six, or eight times," he said. "I merely stunned it. I had no idea how hard that animal's head was."
In the scuffle, Galen lost his balance and fell into an Azalea bush. He found himself inches away from the fox's muzzle.
"That was scary because the fox was still alive," he said.
Galen got back on his feet and delivered a final blow to the finish the job. He called the situation "terrible" because he loves wildlife. But once the fox tested positive for rabies, he knew he did the right thing.
"I was fortunate," Galen said. "If I hadn't had the stick in my hand, I think I would have been pretty badly bitten."
Brunswick's Animal Control Officer Heidi Nelson said it's "concerning" to have so many rabid animal attacks in the last month in town. On June 13, a rabid skunk bit two dogs on High Street, and on June 17, a rabid fox attacked two neighbors on Woodland Drive.
"There may be years where we don't have any cases of positive rabies, and now all of a sudden we have three," Nelson said.
She wants to remind the public to get pets vaccinated for rabies and call police if a potentially rabid animal is in the area.
"Play it safe, assume it could be rabid, and get away from it," she said. "Kick it if you have to, pick up something, and keep it between you and the animal."
While she doesn't advise a person to attack the animal, Nelson understands why Galen did.
"He was quoted as saying 'It was him or me,' and in that case, obviously you want to protect yourself," Nelson said.
For Galen, it was a defensive instinct. He has survived a shipwreck, plane crash and career in the Navy. Clearly, a rabid fox was no match for this 95-year-old Maine man.