An 8-year-old girl from New Jersey is recovering after she was attacked by a fox while on a game date with blocks friends from her home. A young man playing basketball nearby heard her cries for help and threw a ball at the fox to distract her.
The girl, Dylan Dratch, was standing in a creek in the backyard of a friend with a handful of girls a few blocks from her home in Livingston, about 19 miles from Manhattan, when she encountered the fox around 4:45 p.m. of Wednesday.
Dylan, who celebrated her birthday on July 19, said on Friday that she thought she was dreaming, but the fox quickly started hunting at her feet.
This is when she started screaming.
Matthew Nichter, 20, who lives near the site of the attack, was playing basketball with his neighbors’ three sons in their front yard.
“We heard screaming,” he said in a telephone interview Friday. “I ran there, still holding the basketball I played with.”
Nikter wrote to Dylan who was being attacked by the fox.
“I threw basketball as a form of distraction and chased it away,” he said. “Dylan was able to break away.”
Nichter said he followed the fox – a short distance – until he left the property.
“I then went back to the creek and caught Dylan,” he said, adding that he tried to calm him down. “She was scared, crying and her legs were really bloody.”
He said she tried her best to comfort Dylan by telling her that her parents, an ambulance and police were on track.
Dylan was taken to a hospital, where her mother, Stacey, said she was given the first of what is likely to be a series of rabies shots, as well as an epinephrine shot because she is allergic to dogs.
Dylan suffered 19 puncture wounds in her legs and feet, her mother said.
“She has a lot of bruises on her ankle,” Stacey Dratch said in an interview Friday. “The fox left a mark on his mouth on the back of her legs.”
It is the first time a fox has attacked a man in the city in more than 31 years, said Livingston Police Chief Gary Marshuetz.
“Police said either Dylan accidentally came in contact with her counter or the fox was furious,” said Dratch, 45.
The police chief said on Friday, “The State Fish and Wildlife Division is actively helping us to trap 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.
No matter how scary and anxious she was, after arriving at Dylan, she had to stay calm to comfort him. Dylan is the youngest of three children. She has two brothers, who have told her they are proud of how brave she is.
Dylan said she considers Nichter a life-saver. Dratch believes he is a goddess.
Nikter does not consider himself a hero.
“It’s really sweet and I appreciate that they feel that way,” he said. “I’m just happy I was able to help and I was in the right place at the right time.”
He said he acted instinctively.
“I’m really happy she’m okay,” he added. “It could have been a lot worse.”