8-Year-Old Girl Attacked by Fox Near Her New Jersey Home: 'I Thought It Was a Dream'
Dylan Dratch was bitten by the wild animal 19 times after it chased her along a neighborhood creek a few blocks away from her Livingston home
An 8-year-old girl has a neighbor to thank for saving her life after he jumped into action to scare away a fox that had attacked her in a New Jersey community.
Dylan Dratch suffered puncture wounds on her shins, ankle and foot following the attack by the wild animal on Wednesday afternoon, according to WABC.
"At first I thought it was a dream," she told the outlet. "But then it kept on following me, and that's when it attacked me."
The incident happened around 4:45 p.m. while Dylan was walking with a friend along a neighborhood creek, just a few blocks away from her Livingston home, WABC and WCBS-TV reported.
The little girl said she noticed the fox behind her, and despite not thinking it was real at first, she began to run away.
"I ran, just in case, and then it followed me so then I knew it wasn't a dream," she explained to WCBS-TV. "I fell down when I was running away and then it started biting me on my legs."
According to the outlet, Dylan sustained 19 bites on her legs and feet before neighbor Matt Nichter, who was playing basketball with some friends at the time of the incident, came to her rescue.
"I sprinted at it and approached it [with my arms spread out] to show I was much bigger, and then I just chased the fox to make sure it left," he explained to WCBS-TV. "I didn't have a lot of fear because I knew I had a lot better chance than this 8-year-old girl."
"I was holding a ball in my hand, so I used that as a bit of a distraction," he added to WABC. "The little girl ran away, and she was able to get to safety, I guess. I carried her up into the front of the house and calmed her down a little bit. She was a little bit torn up about it, obviously."
After a neighbor called Dylan's mom, Stacey Dratch, the little girl was taken to St. Barnabas Medical Center in Livingston, where she was treated for her injuries, WABC reported. By Thursday, she was home recovering with her wounds bandaged.
Recalling how she responded to the terrifying incident, Stacey said she had to remain calm for her daughter.
"[You have to] try not to show your kid that you're having a breakdown," she told WABC. "Go into protect mode, and she was okay."
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Both Dylan and her mother also said they feel immense gratitude toward Nichter for jumping into action and scaring the fox away.
"[He's] a lifesaver," Dylan shared with WABC, with her mom adding, "He is a godsend, very grateful. Just grateful she's okay."
Though fox and coyote sightings are reportedly common in the New Jersey area, Livingston Police Chief Gary Marshuetz said attacks are "extremely rare." He urged residents to be cautious while outdoors.
"This is the first time in 31 years that we've had a fox attack a human," Marshuetz said in a press conference, according to WABC. "So it is extremely rare, but again, you always want to make noise, be mindful of the fact... they have den or home areas, and they do have pups in the spring."
"Anytime you see an animal behaving oddly, that you just move away from it and leave it be and call us and we'll take care of it," Livingston Police Captain Tom Smith added.