CONCORD, N.H. - Fish and Game Department personnel are alerting residents of Hopkinton, N.H., to the likely presence of a rabid coyote, following an attack on a local teenager yesterday (February 22, 2012).
The young man was walking the family dog in a wooded area near his home when the coyote approached him. The dog ran away, at which point the coyote attacked the teenager. The teen defended himself, reportedly punching the coyote in the nose until the coyote left the scene. During the interaction, the teenager was scratched and possibly bitten by the coyote. The teen sought medical treatment, and is receiving a course of rabies shots as a precaution.
Though there are occasional reports of rabid wild animals attacking humans in New Hampshire, Pat Tate, wildlife biologist with Fish and Game, said that the coyote attack was highly unusual. "It's the first time we know of that a coyote has attacked a person in New Hampshire," he said. Tate noted that earlier in the week, a local dog was also attacked by a coyote, and required veterinary care. "We suspect that it's the same coyote, and that the coyote is rabid, given the uncharacteristic aggressiveness of the attacks. For local residents, that means they should be aware of the presence of coyotes, and they should know the signs of a rabid animal." He added, "This incident, scary as it was, gives us no reason to fear wild animals in general."
Tate points out that it's not that unusual to see a coyote at any time of day or night. "The species is spread out around the state. Seeing a coyote in woodland landscape, one that's acting normal, is fine," he said. Normal behavior, for a coyote, is expressing no interest in humans or pets. "If a coyote displays any interest in a human - whether friendly or aggressive - that's unusual, and that's when you need to be on alert."
Martin Garabedian, chief of Law Enforcement for N.H. Fish and Game, says that Conservation Officers and Hopkinton Police Department personnel are in the area, looking for signs of the rabid coyote. "In the interest of public safety, when the officers find the animal in question, they will dispatch it and send it for rabies testing," he said.
If someone sees a coyote, Tate recommends yelling at it to instill fear. Healthy coyotes will retreat when faced with loud noises or thrown objects. "Obviously, you never want to approach a wild animal. But if you are in a situation where you are outdoors near a coyote, shout at it, make sure it knows you're a threat," Tate advises. "If it comes at you, hit it hard on the head and snout."