California wildlife officials believe a single coyote is responsible for a number of recent attacks on Bay Area residents.
DNA from the victims’ bite wounds and clothing revealed that all four residents had been attacked by the same coyote, Captain Patrick Foy of the California Department of Fish and Wildlife said Wednesday.
The agency and the police are trying to catch the coyote.
The last attack took place on Tuesday around 8:30 a.m. in Moraga, a suburb of about 16,000 people east of San Francisco.
A woman was walking her 3-year-old daughter on a street when a coyote attacked and bit the girl, Moraga Police Department chief Jon B. King said Wednesday.
The woman fended off the coyote, who then ran away, he said. The girl, who received three bite wounds, was treated on site and taken to a hospital by her mother. After the attack, a neighbor in San Francisco took a picture of the coyote roaming the neighborhood, according to KPIX-TV.
“All four attacks are within two miles of each other, which is nothing for a coyote to run back and forth,” said Captain Foy.
On the morning of December 4, a coyote attacked Kenji Sytz while he was training with friends in a high school field.
“I went down to do my last round of push-ups and felt a sting that instantly turned into a sharp pain,” recalled 45-year-old Sytz in a telephone interview on Wednesday.
“I looked back while in a push-up position and there was a coyote on my left leg,” he said.
“I shook my leg,” he continued. “It hasn’t let go. I rolled over and hit it right in the nose with my fist closed and it came off. “
When the coyote did not leave the field immediately, Mr. Sytz yelled and raised his arms to scare it off. With the help of one of his friends, the coyote eventually withdrew.
Mr. Sytz went to an emergency room where his four bite wounds – two on the shin and two on the calf – were cleaned and treated.
“He did me pretty well,” said Mr Sytz, adding that he had received tetanus and rabies shots in the weeks following the attack.
Mr Sytz, who grew up in Moraga, said that he was used to seeing coyotes in the community and in the hills but that they did not usually approach people.
The coyote he encountered was different.
“It wanted to keep getting involved, just the opposite of what an animal does in this situation,” he said.
Later that month, a coyote bit a grocery clerk on the lower leg behind the store in Lafayette, north of Moraga, Captain Foy said.
The man jumped up and yelled aggressively along with two other people until the coyote fled, he said.
And in July, a coyote bit a 2-year-old boy in a park parking lot. A nanny who looked after the boy used a bicycle helmet to beat and chase the coyote away, Captain Foy said.
“For each attack, we collected the victim’s clothing and dabbed it in the bite wound,” he said of the DNA testing.
In December, the agency’s law enforcement department confirmed that the same coyote was involved in these three attacks.
Mr Sytz said his heart sank when he learned the same coyote has been linked to the attack earlier this week that took place near his home. “I immediately thought, which kid in the neighborhood had bitten?” he said.
Captain Foy said he did not know why the coyote was so aggressive towards humans and that it was not clear what might have started the rampage. He said there was no evidence that the coyote had rabies.
“That will be a major focus 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 more and more people live at the interface between urban and wilderness, these encounters are becoming increasingly 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 their territory has expanded since 1900. In the past few decades, they have moved to urban areas.
By nature, they are nocturnal and fearful of people, and they try to stay out of sight.
“The vast majority of coyotes are never seen,” said Captain Foy.
Attacks are generally rare, he said, but at least 10 attacks by coyotes were reported in California last year.
Captain Foy said he couldn’t explain the surge, but this anecdotal evidence suggested that more people are spending time in state parks and the outdoors “because we’re all locked in quarantine in our homes.”
On its website, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife offers safety tips for people who encounter a coyote, such as: For example, making loud noises to scare him off or throwing stones in his direction.
“And if those things don’t work, it’s a call to 911,” said Chief King.