An 8-year-old New Jersey girl is recovering after she was attacked by a fox while on a play date with friends blocks from her home. A young man playing basketball nearby heard her cry for help and threw a ball at the fox to distract it.
The girl, Dylan Dratch, was standing in a stream in a friend’s garden with a handful of girls a few blocks from her home in Livingston, about 1
Dylan, who celebrated her birthday on July 19, said on Friday that she thought she was dreaming, but the fox quickly began to get dirty at her feet.
That’s when she started screaming.
Matthew Nichter, 20, who lives next door to where the attack took place, played basketball with his neighbors’ three sons in their garden.
“We heard screams,” he said in a telephone interview Friday. “I ran back there and still played basketball that I played with.”
Nichter sprinted to Dylan who was attacked by the fox.
“I threw basketball as a form of distraction and chased it away,” he said. “Dylan could break free.”
Nichter said he followed the fox – at a short distance – until it left the property.
“I then went back across the creek and picked up Dylan,” he said, adding that he was trying to calm her down. “She was scared, crying and her feet were really bloody.”
He said he tried his best to comfort Dylan by telling her that her parents, an ambulance and police were on their way.
Dylan was taken to a hospital where her mother, Stacey, said she received the first of what will likely be a series of rabies shots, as well as a shot of epinephrine because she is allergic to heart dogs.
Dylan received 19 puncture wounds on her legs and feet, her mother said.
“She has a lot of bruises on her ankles,” Stacey Dratch said in an interview Friday. “The fox left an impression of his mouth on her back.”
This is the first time a fox has attacked a human in the congregation in more than 31 years, said Livingston Police Chief Gary Marshuetz.
“Police said either Dylan accidentally came in contact with its casing or the fox was rabid,” said Dratch, 45.
The police chief said on Friday, “The State Division of Fish and Wildlife is actively helping us catch the animal.”
Dratch said she was shocked to learn that Dylan was attacked by a fox.
“It’s not a call that anyone wants to have,” she said.
Despite how scared and anxious she was when she came to Dylan, she had to remain calm to comfort her. Dylan is the youngest of three children. She has two brothers who have told her that they are proud of how brave she is.
Dylan said she considers Nichter a lifesaver. Dratch thinks he’s a godfather.
Nichter does not consider himself a hero.
“It’s really sweet and I appreciate that they feel that way,” he said. “I’m just glad I was able to help and was in the right place at the right time.”
He said he acted instinctively.
“I’m really glad she’s OK,” he added. “It could have been a lot worse.”