Police in Washington, D.C., have captured a small fox after receiving multiple reports of people being attacked or bitten on Capitol grounds. Both Representative Ami Bera and Politico reporter Ximena Bustillo confirmed to CBS News on Tuesday that they had been attacked by a fox while walking outside the Capitol.
Capitol police tweeted photos of the now-caged fox on Tuesday afternoon with the caption “Captured.”
Bera told CBS News that he was walking outside of the Russell Senate Office building when something came up behind him “totally unprovoked” and attacked the back of his leg. He said onlookers quickly started yelling to Capitol police, and the fox ran away. Bera said the bite was very light, tearing a hole in his pants but not his sock or leg.
Nevertheless, Bera — who is also a physician — said he started a course of the rabies vaccine just to be safe.
“You want to take wild animal bites — even a scratch — seriously,” he said.
Bustillo, an agriculture policy reporter, told CBS News that while leaving the Hill at approximately 3 p.m. on Tuesday, she felt a “pinch” on her ankle.
“At first I thought it was squirrel or a rat, and then the fox ran up in front of me,” she said.
Bustillo said she swung her backpack at the fox because she was afraid it would jump in her face, adding that it ran off once others nearby started yelling. Though she said she was not seriously injured, she is getting the rabies vaccine as well.
The fox’s capture comes after Capitol police issued an alert to the Senate community warning of possible fox dens on Capitol grounds. The alert, which was obtained by CBS News, said police received reports of attacks or bites at the Botanic Garden and on the House side of the Capitol near the building foundation.
“Foxes are wild animals that are very protective of their dens and territory. Please do not approach any fox you see,” the alert said.
It is not clear how many foxes were behind the reported attacks.
Capitol police also tweeted an alert Tuesday, writing that there have been “several reports of aggressive fox encounters” at or near the Capitol building. Police added that animal control officers are working to trap and relocate the creatures.
The reports of “aggressive” fox encounters appear to contradict the species’ typical behavior. Foxes are generally afraid of humans and are much more likely to run away than attack, according to the Humane Society.
The Humane Society said foxes are typically not a danger to humans unless they are rabid, or if they have been captured or handled — though it noted that foxes raised in urban areas may associate people with food and act more boldly. The foxes may attack small pets, however, especially if the pets have come near their young or are small enough to be considered prey.
To scare a fox away, the Humane Society recommends making loud noises, dousing them with water or throwing a small object at them.
Ellis Kim and Zak Hudak contributed reporting.