KEY POINTS

  • The police say the fox attacked three other people 
  • The girl received rabies shot as a precaution
  • Experts said foxes rarely attack humans and generally do so only if they are rabid 

A New Jersey teen was hailed a hero for saving his little sister from a wild fox by punching it.

The fox had reportedly attacked the young girl and latched itself onto her leg. Matthew Nielsen, the brother of the girl, told ABC owned-and-operated WPVI, "I grabbed it, punched it off of her, and slammed it. I don't remember that honestly."

"I was scared in the moment for sure, and I am unbelievably proud of my son. He acted quicker than I could even get out of the house," said Talia Nielsen, the mother of the girl, reported WABC.

The fox was captured using a clothes hamper before officials came and collected it. The details that led to the attack were not revealed. 
 
Rabies shots were administered to the girl as a precaution. She did not suffer any serious injuries. The fox has not been tested for rabies yet. 
 
"We hear of coyotes, foxes all the time but actually being attacked? I haven't really heard many stories so that's really unfortunate to hear," Laura Garbowski, a stunned resident, told WPVI.

According to the police, the fox had attacked three other people, including a 4-year-old girl over the weekend.

The non-profit organization, Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), said foxes rarely are aggressive toward humans. They may only become dangerous if they are rabid or when they are captured and handled. “Even then, a fox’s natural tendency is to flee rather than fight,” stated HSUS in a statement.

The police advised people to inform them immediately if they see a fox or any wildlife animal not acting normally. 
 
According to a study published in 2018 about foxes and coyotes in an urban environment, experts have noticed a change in their natural behavior. The abundance of food in the form of garbage or plants regularly replaced by humans is attracting herbivorous species such as rats and rabbits, which in turn are attracting foxes. The chances of human and wildlife encounters in these situations are quite high, according to Smithsonian Magazine.

Researchers claimed a rise in contact with wildlife may increase the risk of zoonotic diseases, which jump from animals to humans. 

"To discourage foxes from people's property they should also ensure any rubbish and household waste left out is secure and not open for scavenging,” recommended the U.K.'s Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, reported the BBC.

Handout photo from Wild Wonders of Europe shows an urban fox (Vulpes vulpes) drinking water in the sunset in an industrial part of London in May 2009 Wild Red Fox Photo: WILD WONDERS OF EUROPE / Laurent GESLIN