Fox captured on Capitol Hill after biting nine people tests positive for rabies

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(WASHINGTON) — The “aggressive” fox that Capitol Police captured Tuesday tested positive for rabies after biting at least nine people around Capitol Hill, according to District of Columbia Department of Health officials.

The female fox was “humanely euthanized” earlier Wednesday in order to test it for rabies, DC Health said Wednesday evening, noting that the agency is contacting “all human victims who were bitten by the fox.”

“The DC Public Health lab has confirmed the fox that was captured yesterday tested positive for the rabies virus,” it said in a statement. “Animal control will post informational flyers around Capitol Hill advising of the fox’s positive rabies status and encouraging people who might have been exposed to call DC Health.”

On Thursday, the health department said the fox’s kits — or babies — had to be put down as well.

“Three fox kits were recovered from the den site of the female fox who tested positive for rabies. Since the mother tested positive for the rabies virus and the kits could have been exposed during grooming or other means, they were no longer able to be safely rehabilitated and were humanely euthanized,” a statement said.

DC Health said the captured fox was responsible for nine confirmed bites on Capitol Hill in an earlier statement and added that the kits were also found in the area.

“The fox was an adult female and kits were found and captured in the area where the fox was from earlier this morning. If this fox is determined to be the parent of the kits, they will be sent to a wildlife rehabilitation center, otherwise they will be relocated in the area they were found,” the statement said.

Police had warned the public on Tuesday afternoon not to approach any foxes reportedly raising alarms around the Capitol complex.

“We have received several reports of aggressive fox encounters on or near the grounds of the U.S. Capitol,” Capitol Police tweeted at 12:50 p.m. on Tuesday. “For your safety, please do not approach any foxes. Animal Control Officers are working to trap and relocate any foxes they find.”

A Capitol Police spokesman told ABC News at that time that a fox “bit or nipped” at least six people, including one lawmaker.

The office of the House Sergeant at Arms had also warned lawmakers in a memo about the fox reportedly biting people and said: “There are possibly several fox dens on Capitol Grounds.”

Rep. Ami Bera, D-Calif., revealed on Twitter he was the lawmaker who had been bitten.

Notably, foxes are susceptible to rabies and can transmit the disease to humans, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — a fact Bera knows now all too well.

The congressman’s office confirmed in a statement to ABC News that he was “nipped on the leg” and admitted to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, where he received several shots.

Bera, who is a physician, tweeted a light-hearted warning about his close call.

Pictures of the cute — but potentially dangerous — creature first popped up on social media on Monday. A fox was spotted scavenging on the streets nearby Tuesday afternoon, despite the area being crowded with tourists now that the Capitol complex reopened to the public last month after being mostly closed for two years because of the pandemic.

After workers spent hours trying to find the animal in question, Capitol Police tweeted a photo at 3:36 p.m. Tuesday of the culprit in a cage with the line “Captured.”

Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, told reporters she had a close encounter with the fox Monday evening and showed a video she took of the usually nocturnal animal.

Some on the internet were quick to call for the fox — who was captured with the help of the Humane Rescue Alliance — to be freed. One social media account cosplaying as the “Capitol Fox” also appeared on Twitter Tuesday, even releasing a statement on what the fox called its “illegal arrest.”

“As a fox, I cannot speak. And too often — I have nobody to speak for me. They mock me in songs, they wear me as clothes, and they hunt me down like a criminal in my home. For what, I ask you?” the statement said.

Notably, the only way to test for rabies in canines is to test their brain, which requires them to be put down.

No other foxes were found on the Capitol Hill grounds, DC Health said Wednesday, but advised anyone who came into physical contact with a fox or its kits near Capitol Hill to contact the agency.

ABC News’ Justin Fishel, Sarah Shales and Trish Turner contributed to this report.

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