San Francisco hikers and residents fear an aggressive coyote responsible for biting five people, forcing police and wildlife officials to conduct a capture operation to subdue the dangerous animal.
Authorities collected DNA samples from bite wounds on the victims and their clothing. They found the five attacks were all made by a single coyote in an area that covered about a two-mile radius in and around Moraga and Lafayette. The victims include adults and children aged two and three.
One of the victims said the coyote bit him while he was working out in the morning at a local high school football field. The animal suddenly attacked him while he was doing a push-up, sending a sharp pain through his left leg.
Authorities revealed the other attacks happened at a playground and outside a grocery store in the area. Last Friday, the latest attack was reported outside a Kwik Stop convenience store. Fortunately, all of the victims recovered from the encounters.
The California Department of Fish and Wildlife coordinated with the U.S. Department of Agriculture and local police to capture the rabid animal, euthanize it, and test it for rabies.
“We have a 24/7 operation happening right now in an attempt to catch the offending coyote via trapping,” California Fish and Wildlife Capt. Patrick Foy said.
“I had a stroller with the baby, and I heard her scream! I turned around, she was right next to me, and there was a coyote biting her. I screamed and yelled, and the coyote retreated, but it didn’t go far. I kept screaming and yelling, waving a blanket. It would come right back at us, leave and come right back at us, and it was not scared off by me at all!” said Jackie, the mother of a three-year-old victim.
Authorities have not been successful in capturing the coyote after using baited traps. The situation has caused anxiety and fear to spread among residents. Hikers are resorting to arming themselves with noisemakers, while some parents are keeping their children close to their homes.
A wildlife sniper tried to kill the animal in December but missed the shot. Officials said they would once again try to shoot the coyote if the baited traps do not attract the culprit. They are only worried about the safety of using firearms in a suburban area. “You’ve got to worry about ricochet and what’s behind your shot,” Capt. Foy said.
“So the movie Cujo, you know, where the animal is salivating at the mouth, we have no evidence to suggest any of those characteristics are occurring,” Capt. Foy said as no reports of rabies have so far been called.
Coyotes are known to be wary of people, and despite being seen in populated areas, they stay away from humans. Wildlife experts said the behavior the rabid animal has shown was in contrast to usual traits seen in this species of animal.
“This is very aberrant behavior. We’re in a state where there are thousands of coyotes, and most of the time, they want to have nothing to do with us,” Project Coyote Executive Director Camilla Fox said.