Three rare coyote attacks have people wondering why animals that usually keep to themselves are on the prowl.
The first encounter happened June 14 in Southern California near Palm Desert, according to the Riverside County Animal Services. A 69-year-old woman was gardening at 7 p.m. in her yard in a gated community when a coyote bit her.”She thought she had been poked by a cactus in her garden,” John Welsh, spokesman for the Riverside County Animal Services told ABCNews.com.
The woman suffered minor injuries. Trappers with the U.S. Department of Agriculture captured the coyote, which was humanely destroyed and sent to a lab for rabies testing.
“It is very, very irregular,” Welsh said. “Coyotes don’t usually bite humans. They’re scared of us.”
Ten days later in the same community, Amy Williams, also 69, was taking her usual morning walk at 4:30 when she felt a strange bump on her leg.
“I turned around and I looked and it was this coyote,” Williams told ABCNews.com. “I really didn’t know what to do because I didn’t know if he was going to attack me or not. I clapped my hands and stomped my feet to scare him away but he wouldn’t leave.”
Williams had an open wound on the back of her calf so she rushed home to clean it. Luckily, the coyote didn’t follow her. Williams woke her husband who took her to the hospital where she received several shots and stitches. She was released later that day.
Shortly after Williams’ encounter, a California Fish and Game warden shot and killed a coyote in the community, according to Riverside County Animal Services.
Williams, who has been walking each day for 10 years, has seen a coyote nearby once before but had never been bothered by one. She says this attack has not scared her away from walking.
Williams insists she didn’t do anything to provoke the attack.
“I was just thinking to myself, I wanted to get the walk over with because it was going to be warm that day,” Williams said. “I wanted to finish the walk, sit on the patio, have a cup of coffee and have a shower. It was the same morning as all mornings except for that incident.”
Initial reports indicate both coyotes are negative for rabies, Welsh said.
Then, on June 21, a 5-year-old girl was bit by a coyote at Nehalem Bay State Park in Oregon, according to the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department. The attack is the first in Oregon State Park history.
Sadie Couch, of Oregon City, was walking with her family from the beach back to their campsite when the coyote approached them, the family told ABC affiliate KOMO. Sadie was dragging a stick behind her when the coyote came up and tried to grab it.
“And she started screaming and it backed off a little bit and then it just lunged at her,” Danielle Couch, the girl’s mother, told KOMO. “And it actually nipped her around her rib cage a little bit and it nipped at her feet too. And it did break the skin on her back.”
Sadie’s father fought off the coyote and the girl was treated at a local hospital and released. The family returned to their camping trip.
That same day, three other park visitors reported encounters with an aggressive coyote, although none of them were injured.
“If a coyote approaches you, that alone is aggressive behavior,” Havel said. “Coyote avoid people.”
With the help of Oregon State Police, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife and the U.S. Department of Agriculture Wildlife Services, the park staff was able to safely remove a coyote from the park by lethal means. A park visitor took a photo of a coyote earlier that day and it resembles the one removed by Wildlife Services Agents.
The question is, why are so many coyote attacks happening when the animals usually steer clear of people?
The lack of rain in California this winter could be an explanation for the recent encounters, Welsh said. He speculates the coyotes could be out searching for water and food and advises against leaving bowls outside for pets.
“The coyotes, they will seek easy food sources such as your own little domesticated pets, such as small dogs or small cats,” Welsh said. “For the coyotes it’s much easier to leap over your wall than chase a bunny rabbit.”
As for the Oregon encounter, park visitors could be to blame.
“This is unprecedented for us but there are times when coyote get a little more used to people especially when people are leaving food out or intentionally inviting the coyote in,” Havel said.
“If there’s any trend it’s possibly due to the fact that we lose our respect for wildlife a little bit and in doing so we’re encouraging them to approach us,” he added.
Coyotes can be found across North America and as far north as Alaska. Havel warns that there isn’t one type of landscape where coyotes are known to hang out. They are extremely adaptable and can be seen everywhere from prairies to downtown city streets. If a coyote does approach you, Havel suggests people yell, make themselves look larger and throw objects to scare the coyote off. He advises to admire all wild life from afar and to never leave food out.
“Seeing a coyote can be a real treat,” Havel added. “The concern is aggression, not that the animal exists.”