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Witness: Event was bizarre

Managing Editor

Aug. 30, 2000 10 PM

Alexis Shell, a 16-year-old junior at Charles Henderson High School, never imagined a wild animal would bite her on her school campus.

But that’s exactly what happened to her Tuesday night when a bold gray fox walked up to her and sank its teeth into her leg as she stood outside a classroom building at her school.

"I didn’t know it was there until it bit me," Shell said. "I never heard it or anything."

Within minutes, Patsy Colley, a parent who was attending the open house, found herself fending off the fox with a mop.

Standing just a few feet away from a startled Shell when the incident occurred, Colley found that she did not know how to handle what she saw.

"It all happened so fast," Colley said. "We were still milling around outside the building talking when this fox just walked up to the front of the building and began sniffing around the student’s legs. At first I thought it was a cat or a small dog."

Colley said the event occurred at twilight on the CHHS campus just outside the 100 building for arts and social studies.

"As soon as she (Alexis) realized it was a fox, she screamed and began to run inside," Colley said. "The whole thing was bizarre."

By that time, Shell said the fox had put its teeth in her, making four puncture wounds from the bite.

"I ran," Shell said. "I don’t know what happened after that. As soon as I realized what was happening, I took off and headed inside."

Colley, not knowing what to do, found herself inside the foyer of the building – standing just a few feet away from the fox.

"It ran inside after her as she was trying to get away," Colley said. "I saw a mop and grabbed it and stuck it out to keep the fox back. It bit at the mop handle and snarled a little."

But, she said, the fox’s behavior didn’t strike her as being particularly aggressive.

"I know it came up on us and I can tell you I don’t know anything about animals, but it seemed more like a scared animal than anything. It didn’t look like it came up to bite anyone. It was like it was scared and didn’t know what to do."

Colley, whose daughter is also a CHHS junior, kept the fox at bay until two men could get the door to the building open.

"Once those doors opened, the fox got out of there," she said. "It seemed like it just wanted to be gone."

Looking back, Colley wonders if letting the fox out was the right thing to do.

"If I had realized it had bitten the student, I might not have wanted to get those doors open," Colley said. "I know we didn’t catch it to test it for diseases or anything. But I it had stayed in there, it would have been in a confined area with 100 kids and adults. I guess it was the right thing to do."

Once the fox was out of the building, Colley said, she was impressed with the reaction time of school officials – especially CHHS principal, Dr. Linda Felton.

"Dr. Felton was there right away," Colley said. "Her first concern was the kids and she checked to make sure they were alright. Then she explained what had happened so people wouldn’t be frightened by the ambulances and police cars. She did a good job of getting things under control."

The bites did not prove to be serious, and Shell attended classes Wednesday, though she will still have to go through a rabies treatment.

She was transported to Edge after the attack where she received a shot in her hip and a series of shots near the bites.

"It hurt, but it wasn’t that bad," Shell said of the shots. She said the same thing about the bites.

At press time, the fox had not been captured or destroyed, though policemen and animal control officers are searching for the animal. Because the fox hasn’t been caught, it is uncertain as to whether or not the animal was a carrier of the rabies virus.