California wildlife officials believe a single coyote is responsible for a series of recent attacks on Bay Area residents.
DNA taken from the bites and clothing of the victims revealed that all four residents were attacked by the same coyote, California Department of Fisheries and Wildlife Captain Patrick Foy said on Wednesday.
The agency and police attempt to capture the coyote.
The latest attack took place at around 8:30 a.m. on Tuesday in Moraga, a suburban town of about 16,000 residents east of San Francisco.
A woman was walking with her 3-year-old daughter on a street when a coyote attacked and bit the girl, Chief Jon B. King of the Moraga Police Department said on Wednesday.
The woman pushed the coyote away, which then fled, he said. The girl, who received three bites, was treated at the scene and taken to hospital by her mother. After the attack, a neighbor took a photo of the coyote roaming the neighborhood, according to KPIX-TV in San Francisco.
“The four attacks are within two miles of each other, which is nothing for a coyote to come and go,” said Captain Foy.
On the morning of December 4, a coyote attacked Kenji Sytz while he was working on a high school field with friends.
“I went downstairs to do my last set of push-ups and I felt a sting that immediately turned into a sharp pain,” recalls Mr. Sytz, 45, in a telephone interview on Wednesday.
“I looked back in a push-up position and on my left leg, hooked up, there was a coyote,” he says.
“I shook my leg,” he continued. “He didn’t let go. I rolled onto my side and with a closed fist punched him in the nose and he released himself.
When the coyote did not immediately leave the field, Mr. Sytz screamed and raised his arms to scare him. With the help of a friend of his, the coyote finally retreated.
Mr Sytz went to the emergency room, where his four bite wounds – two in the shin and two in the calf – were cleaned and treated.
“He has helped me very well,” said Mr Sytz, adding that he received a series of tetanus and rabies vaccines in the weeks following the attack.
Mr Sytz, who grew up in Moraga, said he was used to seeing coyotes in the community and in the hills, but they usually don’t come close to humans.
The coyote he encountered was different.
“He wanted to continue to engage, the opposite of what an animal does in this situation,” he said.
Later that month, a coyote bit a grocery store worker on the lower leg behind the store in Lafayette, north of Moraga, Captain Foy said.
The man jumped up and screamed aggressively with two other people until the coyote ran away, he said.
And in July, a coyote bit a 2-year-old boy in the parking lot of a park. A nanny who looked after the boy used a bicycle helmet to hit the coyote and chase it away, Captain Foy said.
“In each of the attacks, we collected the victim’s clothes and dabbed the bite wound,” he said of DNA testing.
In December, the agency’s law enforcement division confirmed that the same coyote was involved in all three attacks.
Mr Sytz said his heart sank when he learned the same coyote was linked to this week’s attack, which took place near his home. “I immediately thought, what neighborhood kid was bitten?” he said.
Captain Foy said he was unsure why the coyote had been so aggressive towards people and that it was not clear what had triggered the rampage. He said there was no evidence to suggest the coyote had rabies.
“This will be one of the main objectives of the investigation, if we can get our hands on this animal,” he said.
Coyotes are unpredictable, said Chief King.
“These are wild animals,” he said, “and as we have more and more people living at the interface between urban and wild lands, these encounters are going to become more and more important.”
Coyotes are known to live in residential neighborhoods where they can survive on squirrels, mice, rabbits, and birds.
They have long been present in much of North America, but since 1900 their range has grown. In recent decades, they have settled in urban areas.
By nature, they are nocturnal and afraid of humans, and they try to stay out of sight.
“The vast majority of coyotes, you never see them,” said Captain Foy.
Attacks are generally rare, he said, but last year at least 10 coyote attacks were reported in California.
Captain Foy said he couldn’t explain the rise, but anecdotal evidence suggested more people were spending time in state parks and in the wild “because we’re all locked in our homes under quarantine. . “
On its website, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife offers safety tips for people when they encounter a coyote, such as making loud noises to scare it off or throwing stones at it.
“And if those things don’t work, then it’s a call to 911,” Chief King said.