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Fox squirrel attacks boy, father in Perry
CRAWFORD BYRON
STAFF
Byron Crawford
"Bizarre."
That's the word Kenzie Ison used to describe the behavior of a male fox squirrel that attacked and bit his 10-year-old son, Kaleb - and later attacked and bit him - and reportedly either jumped on or bit several other people in the Owens Branch area of Perry County over the past three weeks.
"My son said he was going up the road on his bike and saw the squirrel sitting in the tree, and stopped and said, 'Hello, little squirrelly,'" Ison said. "At which time it jumped off the tree and took after him. He tried to ride away from it, and it got up on his bicycle a couple of times, then got up on his leg - and he had short pants on - and it sliced his leg above his right ankle, across the back side."
Dr. J. Dustin Chaney, the attending emergency room physician at Appalachian Regional Hospital in Hazard where the boy was treated, said he had never encountered such an incident involving a squirrel and was not able to find any such reference in a medical literature review.
"There were two puncture marks where the squirrel had bitten him, and there was probably about a 3-inch laceration across the Achilles tendon where the squirrel had gotten hold of him - and there were a lot of other scratches on his leg, too," Chaney said.
Reaching safety
Diane Sparkman, a Perry County school bus driver who lives near where Kaleb was attacked, said she and her mother had stopped their car to chat with Kaleb's friend, 11-year-old Logan Sexton, who was fishing in a stream nearby. She said they heard Kaleb screaming and looked up to see the squirrel chasing him as he rode toward their car.
"It chased me 50 or 60 yards and jumped up on my tire a few times, and whenever I got off I kicked it, and it bit me," Kaleb said. "They told me to get in the car...I watched it, and it was attacking my bike."
Melissa Shepherd, a nurse who lives nearby, administered first aid to Kaleb's wounds.
"The state veterinarian's office gave us some good news that they've never had a case of rabies involving a squirrel, which was my worry," said Kenzie Ison, an herb exporter.
In the meantime, several residents began telling of run-ins, apparently with the same squirrel.
David Patterson said he was washing his truck one day when the squirrel ran up his leg and he knocked it off. He was not bitten.
Dr. Mike Auslander, state public health veterinarian, said the squirrel might have been someone's pet at one time, or "there are lots of different diseases that cause brain infections or behavior changes."
Enough is enough
After the squirrel chased his son and a friend the second time a few days ago and bit his son on the boot, Ison said he took out his shotgun.
"I walked all the way up past where it happened before, and turned around and started walking back down..and I stepped over into the edge of a lady's yard and was looking up in the trees, and the next thing I know it hits me right in the middle of the back," Ison said.
The animal fell onto Ison's right leg and bit his inner thigh near the groin before he was able to knock it to the ground and kick it into the yard.
"Then it comes back at me, and I don't have time to shoot, so I golf-club it with my shotgun barrel," he said. "It rolls out through the grass and gets up and shakes that off and comes at me again, and I golf club it again. It did that three times."
Finally, Ison was able to get a shot off as the squirrel retreated and eventually killed the animal, which will be examined by state health officials.
"It sounds like this squirrel has been fed by people, but still that's a pretty big step for a squirrel to be habituated by people and get violent," said biologist John Morgan of the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources. "It is probably very unlikely that it is rabies, but it would seem wise to test it ."
Byron Crawford's column appears on the Kentucky page Sundays, Wednesdays and Fridays. You can reach him at (502) 582-4791 or e-mail him at bcrawford@courier-journal.com. You can also read his columns at www.courier-journal.com.
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