Shooting fox was husband's only choice

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By Lou Elliott Jones, Editor

Pat Vrana got up, mowed the lawn and was headed inside for a bite to eat when her husband Don said something about seeing an animal that might be a fox in the yard.

One week later, the couple is relaxing at home, but still shaken by the bizarre sequence of events that have followed.

It's a story that has gone around the world: Woman attacked by fox, shot by husband.

Late night comedians have made jokes. Hateful comments have been made about the husband on news web sites and in blogs.

And in another twist, after testing negative for rabies, a second test shows that it had rabies. "When they said that I just felt sick. I was dizzy, queasy. I couldn't see," she said.

After speaking with her doctor in Ocala and workers at the Marion County Health Department, "They think it doesn't warrant the shots so I won't be taking the shots," she said Monday.

The paramedics who treated her a week ago said the fox didn't break the skin on her left leg. "As far as they could find it did not bite me," she says. "I don't know what I'm going to do."

Pat Vrana is stretched in a recliner that day after coming home from the hospital.

"I thought it was a cat at first," Don Vrana said.

"I said shoot it. It has no business in the yard at this time of day," Pat Vrana said. "It's not normal."

The fox was about 25 feet away and it came out from under a car. Foxes are usually shy and nocturnal.

"He got his .22 and loaded it and I stepped out of his way," she said. "And that's when she came right at me."

The female gray fox sprinted about 25 feet and latched onto Pat Vrana's blue jean clad left leg.

"It was a streak," she said. "For that thing to react so fast. That's abnormal and frightening."

"I didn't want a bullet to hit her, but she said to shoot." Don Vrana said uneasily recounting the talk between the two during the attack. "There was no conversation. I just shot around the muzzle and it didn't seem to faze it."

"He shot it two or three times and it kept coming," she said. "I guess I was trying to swing it off and it just hung on."

Don Vrana said, "I got within a couple of inches of it with the gun and it was still moving. I shot it again."

Don Vrana fired seven bullets. Six were recovered from the fox. He said the lead investigator told him one scraped the skull. Don Vrana is wondering if he really shot his wife or if it was a ricochet off the fox's skull that shattered the bone in her right leg.

"I was absolutely amazed when she said she was shot," he said. "It could have deflected off the skull.

"...It was awful when I heard she was shot."

Although the fox was dead, it was still a terrible scene. Pat Vrana was on the ground, as her husband pushed up the jean on her right leg, "The blood just came gushing out," he said. The dead fox maintained its grip o her left leg.

"That thing just hung on. Oh, it was determined," she said. "I was lying on my back looking at the bottom of my right foot."

He went inside, called 9-1-1 and asked what he should do until paramedics arrived.

"The first thing in my mind was rabies. It was one of the most vicious things I've seen," he said. And then his thoughts went back to an incident in his youth. "I had an acquaintance who would have been a friend if he had not been shot in the leg and bled to death. That thought went through my mind."

Most folks in 47 years of marriage do not go through such a horrible incident.

Pat Vrana has had two major procedures on her leg. She has rods and pins in it. She will be doing four months of therapy as doctors monitor the bone to see if it will grow together.

Don Vrana, on the other hand, is dealing with the news that the whole world thinks he cannot shoot a fox without injuring his wife.

Don Vrana says one reason he hesitated shooting the animal at first was to be sure he was not killing a neighbor's beloved pet.

But in the middle of recounting the awful scene, they inject a positive note.

"We have a terrific rescue department and sheriff's department," she said as her husband nods his head. "Levy County services have been terrific."

Don Vrana says the lead investigator even paid him a visit while his wife was in the hospital and went through the forensic routine.

And he cannot say enough for the victim's advocate from the sheriff's office who would not allow him to drive to the hospital. "I have the highest praise for the police department and the special unit for victims. Mallory drove me to the hospital and stayed with me until our daughter and her husband came."

Pat Vrana says she's very optimistic about her leg. She says she is lucky the sheriff's and emergency personnel responded so quickly and that the University of Florida Shands Hospital is located nearby. She is impressed that they have the best orthopedics department in the state.

"Looking at how fast this happened," she said. "It could have chewed up a young child."

"I would suggest that if people see something, they call somebody else to hand it or shoot it," she said.