WASHINGTON - Being outfoxed in Congress usually means losing a vote on an amended resolution or being too late for the donut line in the Senate cafeteria.
So spare a thought for the politicians and staff at the US Capitol in Washington, where a highly aggressive red fox spent at least two days stalking frightened humans, including a Democratic congressman.
Police officers warned Tuesday that they had received multiple reports of people "being attacked or bitten" by an aggressive canine at the seat of US democracy -- in a statement first reported by none other than... Fox News.
The force quickly dispatched animal control officers to "trap and relocate" any foxes they found -- and within hours they posted pictures on social media of the beast, finally taken into custody, sitting in an animal cage above the caption: "Captured."
Online political magazine Punchbowl News reported that congressman Ami Bera had to be rescued by police late Monday after squaring up to a fox that had just bitten him in an "unprovoked" attack.
"I didn't see it and all of a sudden I felt something lunge at the back of my leg," Bera, a physician by profession, told Punchbowl.
The 57-year-old Sacramento Democrat wasn't hurt, but agreed "out of an abundance of caution" to get a series of rabies shots.
"I expect to get attacked if I go on Fox News, I don't expect to get attacked by a fox," he told Punchbowl.
Ximena Bustillo, a Congress reporter for Politico, said she was bitten on the ankle from behind as she was leaving the complex.
"I'm from Idaho. I know to not try and pet it!!" she tweeted.
Witnesses flooded social media with sightings, with several reporting seeing it munching on a squirrel or merely enjoying the sun -- its bloodlust apparently sated -- in the Senate gardens.
Fifteen months after a violent mob stormed the Capitol to disrupt the certification of last presidential election, one wag even referred to the ongoing animal threat as an "infurrection."
Inside the Capitol, reporters spent the weekly leaders' press conferences in a breathless interrogation about possible action on the four-legged menace.
Top Republican Mitch McConnell ignored the inquiries, but Iowa's intrepid two-term senator Joni Ernst was proud to report that she had spotted the animal, without revealing how close the encounter was.
Red foxes -- the most common of several North American species -- are regularly found in towns and cities but tend to avoid people, according to the city environmental department.
They typically eat insects, small birds, squirrels and rabbits, and are not known for their predilection for legislators or their intimidated staffers.
The species has thrived during the pandemic, according to wildlife experts in the nation's capital.
"Less ambient noise, less traffic, less interference... right now, life is better for them," Bill McShea, a wildlife ecologist with the Smithsonian National Zoo, told DCist magazine.
"If there's an upside to Covid, it's on the wildlife."
© Agence France-Presse