Rabies warning on popular Arizona trail after fox attacks three hikers in 48 hours

Gray fox in Arizona, USA
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Wildlife officials in Arizona have issued a warning after an unusually aggressive fox attacked three people on a popular hiking trail within 48 hours. As local outlet TVA 4 News Tucson reports, the attacks are very unusual, and suggest that the animal is likely carrying rabies, which can be deadly without treatment if transmitted to humans.

All three incidents happened on the Hugh Norris Trail in Saguaro National Park - a challenging route that takes hikers to Wasson Peak, the highest point in the Tucson Mountains with spectacular views of the desert below.

"It's shocking to me," said Lauren Fibich, who was walking with her fiance Mike Hartz when the fox appeared on Thursday. "We hike at least once a week, our summers, we're teachers, sometimes we go for a week, two weeks, three weeks, and all we do is hike. We've been going to the national parks for quite a few years now and I don't think I've ever heard of nocturnal animals attacking during the day and that many happening at once."

Arizona Game and Fish spokesperson Mike Hart said two people have suffered minor injuries, but fended off the animal with their trekking poles. The agency is now trying to locate the fox and put it down, for public safety. If you have seen anything that might help, you should call 623-236-7201 to report it.

What is rabies?

Rabies is a viral disease that can be spread by wild and domestic animals, usually through saliva in bites or scratches. Domestic dogs are the main transmitters of rabies worldwide, but bats are the main vector in the US.

If it's not treated before symptoms develop, rabies is almost 100% fatal. According to the World Health Organization the incubation period is usually two or three months, but it can be as short as one week or as long as a year in some cases.

If you are bitten or scratched by a wild or unfamiliar animal, or wake up with a bat in the room, you should wash any injuries thoroughly with soap and water, and seek medical advice immediately. You may need treatment with post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) to prevent the virus entering your nervous system.

Cat Ellis

Cat is the editor of Advnture, She’s been a journalist for 15 years, and was fitness and wellbeing editor on TechRadar before joining the Advnture team in 2022. She’s a UK Athletics qualified run leader, and in her spare time enjoys nothing more than lacing up her shoes and hitting the roads and trails (the muddier, the better), usually wearing at least two sports watches.