An 8-year-old New Jersey girl recovers after being attacked by a fox while playing with friends a few blocks from her home. A young man playing basketball nearby heard their calls for help and threw a ball at the fox to distract him.
The girl, Dylan Dratch, was standing with a handful of girls a few blocks from her house in Livingston, about 30 km from Manhattan, in a creek in the back yard of a friend when she met the fox at 4:45 p.m. on Wednesday
Dylan, who celebrated her birthday on July 1
Then she started screaming.
20-year-old Matthew Nichter, who lives next to the place where the attack took place, played basketball in the front yard with his three sons from his neighbors.
“We heard screaming,” he said in a telephone interview on Friday. “I ran back there and still held the basketball I played with.”
Nothing sprinted towards Dylan, who was attacked by the fox.
“I threw basketball as a distraction and chased it away,” he said. “Dylan was able to tear himself away.”
None said he followed the fox – a short distance – until he left the property.
“Then I went back across the stream and picked up Dylan,” he said, adding that he was trying to calm her down. “She was scared, cried, and her feet were really bloody.”
He said he tried his best to comfort Dylan by telling her that her parents, an ambulance, and the police were out.
Dylan was taken to a hospital where her mother, Stacey, said she received the first of a series of rabies shots and a shot of adrenaline because she was allergic to canines.
Dylan suffered 19 stab wounds on her legs and feet, her mother said.
“She has a lot of bruises on her ankles,” Stacey Dratch said in an interview on Friday. “The fox left an imprint of his mouth on her hind legs.”
It is the first time in more than 31 years that a fox has attacked a human in the community, said Livingston Police Chief Gary Marshuetz.
“The police said either Dylan accidentally came into contact with his cave or the fox was rabid,” said the 45-year-old Dratch.
The police chief said on Friday, “The State Department of Fish and Wildlife is actively helping us catch the animal.”
Dratch said she was shocked to learn that Dylan had been attacked by a fox.
“It’s not a call someone wants to get,” she said.
Despite her fear and concern, when she got to Dylan, she had to stay calm to comfort her. Dylan is the youngest of three children. She has two brothers who told her that they are proud of how brave she is.
Dylan said she sees no one as a lifesaver. Dratch thinks he’s a stroke of luck.
Nobody sees himself as a hero.
“It’s really cute and I guess they feel that way,” he said. “I’m just glad that I was able to help and that I was in the right place at the right time.”
He said he acted instinctively.
“I’m really happy that she is fine,” he added. “It could have been much worse.”