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Rabid foxes killed

Bylaw officer also shoots 25 dogs

Jorge Barrera
Northern News Services

Cambridge Bay (Jan 07/02) - Wildlife and bylaw officers are shooting foxes on sight in attempt to contain a rabies outbreak. A similar fate awaits dogs showing signs of infection.

The toll so far includes three bitten residents and 25 dead dogs.

Officer Mike Butt said he expects the foxes to continue roaming through the community until spring.

"We'd have to be on the roads 24 hours a day to keep the fox population down," said Butt. He estimated between three and five foxes have entered the community.

Butt said that since November, rabid foxes have bitten three people, all of whom underwent treatment for rabies, which can be fatal if untreated.

All foxes are considered rabid and will be shot if found in or near the community, he said.

That should be something of a relief for people like Jimmy Hanialik. While filling his snowmachine at around 7 a.m. one November morning, something bit his leg.

"I felt this sharp pain just behind my thigh," said Hanialik. "It was a fox."

The 47-year-old hunter said the fox left one puncture wound, his first fox bite.

"All my life I've been hunting and this is the first time I've ever seen this," said Hanialik, who went through rabies treatment for 28 days.

Since November the community's wildlife officer has shot two foxes and Butt has shot one, along with 25 dogs.

Butt and his partner shot all but one dog at the community dump. The other he had to shoot on sight because it couldn't be moved.

"It's a sad feeling when you shoot an animal," said Butt. "But it's part of my job, the safety of the people of Cambridge Bay is more important."

Dogs tested for rabies were shot with a 12-gauge slug to the heart because the brain is needed for testing.

Butt shot the others in the head and burned the carcasses.

Bruce Trotter, an environmental health specialist with the territorial government, said he's been monitoring the rabies situation in Cambridge Bay -- and the rest of Nunavut -- since early December.

"This year it has been really bad," said Trotter.

Rabies is on an upswing in the Kitikmeot, Kivalliq and Baffin regions. Chesterfield Inlet, Repulse Bay, Rankin Inlet, Resolute Bay and Pond Inlet have reported cases of rabid foxes, said Trotter.

Foxes are the natural "reservoir" for rabies. The animals carry the virus most of the time without being infected, with outbreaks occurring in cycles.

Shane Sather, community wildlife officer, said people should keep their dogs tied up and watch for unusual behaviour in their animals.

"If a dog is friendly and turns mean or if it is usually aggressive and acts like a kitten, it could mean rabies," said Sather.

Signs of rabies include increased saliva around the mouth and paralysis of the hind legs.