An 8-year-old New Jersey girl recovers after being attacked by a fox while on a game date with her friends from her home. A young man playing basketball nearby heard her scream for help and threw a ball at the fox to distract her.
The girl, Dylan Dratch, was standing in a stream in her friend’s yard with a handful of girls a few blocks from her home in Livingston, about 19 miles from Manhattan, when she encountered the fox Wednesday around 4:45 p.m.
Dylan, who celebrated his birthday on July 19, said Friday he thought he was dreaming, but the fox quickly started kicking his feet.
That’s when he started screaming.
Matthew Nichter, 20, who lives next door to where the attack took place, was playing basketball with his neighbors ’three children in the front yard.
“We heard screams,” he said in a phone interview Friday. “I ran right there, keeping the basketball I was playing with.”
Nichter jumped on Dylan who was attacking the fox.
“I threw basketball as a form of distraction and chased it,” he said. “Dylan managed to separate.”
Nichter said he followed the fox – a short distance away – until he left the property.
“Then I went back down the torrent and grabbed Dylan,” she said, adding that he tried to calm her down. “I was scared, crying and my feet were really bloody.”
He said he tried everything he could to comfort Dylan by telling him that his parents, an ambulance and the police were on their way.
Dylan was taken to a hospital where her mother, Stacey, said she was given the first of what will likely be a series of rabies shots, as well as an epinephrine shot because she is allergic to canines.
Dylan suffered 19 stab wounds to his legs and feet, his mother said.
“He has a lot of bruises on all his ankles,” Stacey Dratch said in an interview Friday. “The fox left a mouth imprint on the back of his legs.”
It is the first time a fox has attacked a human in the township in more than 31 years, said Livingston police chief Gary Marshuetz.
“Police said either Dylan came in contact with his denial or the fox was angry,” Dratch, 45, said.
The police chief said Friday: “The state division of fish and wildlife is actively helping us catch the animal.”
Dratch said he was surprised to learn that Dylan was attacked by a fox.
“It’s not a call someone wants to receive,” he said.
Despite the fear and worry she had, once she reached Dylan, she had to stay calm to comfort her. Dylan is the youngest of three children. He has two brothers, who have told him they are proud of how brave he is.
Dylan said he considers Nichter a lifesaver. Dratch believes he is a god.
Nichter is not considered a hero.
“It’s really sweet and I appreciate them feeling that way,” he said. “I’m glad I was able to help and that I was in the right place at the right time.”
He said he acted instinctively.
“I’m very happy it’s okay,” he added. “It could have been a lot worse.”