Fox Captured on Capitol Grounds After Reports of Attacks

WASHINGTON — For a few hours Tuesday on Capitol Hill, attention briefly shifted from the issues of the day — coronavirus relief, the war in Ukraine and the first black woman nominated to the Supreme Court — to an urgent question.

“Have you seen the Capitol fox?” a reporter yelled at Sen. Chuck Schumer, a New York Democrat and Majority Leader, as he was leaving a televised news conference.

It was at this point that uniformed animal control officers pulled up outside the Capitol in a white van, armed with a net, a stick and a cage, looking for a wild fox, or foxes, they had seen on the grounds. They were responding to multiple reports of fox sightings around the US government headquarters, where lawmakers, staffers and reporters had been attacked, roughly six of them bitten, according to Capitol Police, by what appeared to be a red fox that he had become something of a celebrity.

“Fox News. Red. ‘Aggressive.’ Wandering through the Capitol”, reads the Twitter biography of a user who calls himself capitol fox.

By afternoon, a fox had been captured on Capitol grounds, Capitol Police announced in a Twitter news alert that shouted “#BREAKING” and had photos of the caged detainee. A later statement noted that more wild foxes could be roaming the grounds.

“It is unclear if there was only one aggressive fox,” the statement said.

The canine capture followed a reported attack Monday night on Rep. Ami Bera, a California Democrat. Mr. Bera said he had been bitten by a fox near the Russell Senate Office Building in an “unprovoked” attack. according to a report by Punchbowl News.

“I didn’t see it and all of a sudden I felt something lunge at the back of my leg,” Bera said.

Capitol Police had sent out urgent security alerts Tuesday warning people on Capitol Hill of “potential fox dens” on Capitol grounds. The alerts earnestly noted that “foxes are wild animals that are very protective of their dens and territory.”

“Please do not approach any fox you see,” the alerts insisted.

And with good reason. Foxes are one of the most common animals in Washington that transmit rabies, according to city health officials, and the disease is most commonly spread when a person is bitten by a rabid animal.

Which left Mr. Bera in an unfortunate position after his encounter with the Capitol fox. He received tetanus and rabies treatments, seven injections in all, at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center on the recommendation of Congress’s attending physician, a spokesman said.

“One in both buttocks”, Bera later told CNN.

Bera’s spokesman said the congressman was feeling well and working Tuesday after the attack. He added that Mr. Bera would receive three additional rabies vaccinations in the coming days.

“As a doctor, Rep. Bera encourages everyone to be vigilant around wild animals and to speak to their doctor if they are bitten,” the spokesperson added.

Ximena Bustillo, a congressional reporter for Politico, said she had also been bitten by a fox outside the Capitol on Tuesday.

“That feeling when you get bitten by a fox on your way out of the Capitol because of course that’s something I look forward to in THE MIDDLE OF DC,” Ms. Bustillo wrote on Twitter.

Journalists, Capitol staffers and other lawmakers reported less aggressive encounters.

“I was sitting in a gazebo outside the Russell Senate Office building when this little guy came jogging,” said CQ reporter Michael Macagnone. said on Twitter, posting a picture of a fox. She added that the fox “then galloped after a squirrel.”

Representative Andy Levin of Michigan said his the heart leaped for joy when he learned of the foxes on Capitol Hill, apparently unaware that one had bitten a fellow Democrat the night before.

“We need more wild creatures around here and less wild conspiracies,” Levin said, turning the online conversation toward politics.

Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Republican leader, ignored a question about the fox during a news conference on Tuesday, but Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, took up the question and claimed she had seen it. (She later provided journalists with footage of their early morning encounter.)

By Tuesday night, Capitol Fox’s Twitter avatar had been replaced with an image of the caged animal, and a new lobbying campaign had sprung up in the nation’s capital.

“THIS IS NOT THE END!” read a tweet posted along with photographs of the fox being captured. “#FreeTheFox.”

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