Rabid Coyote Bites
Woman In Cape Cod

From Patricia Doyle, PhD
From ProMED-mail
By Eric Gershon
Cape Cod Times
Dressed only in underwear and a T-shirt, a man rescued his wife from the jaws of a rabid coyote that attacked her in their back yard yesterday, clubbing it with a piece of lumber. The woman, aged 44, was bitten on the left hand by a 45 pound female coyote at about 7 a.m. as she tried to shoo it away from her dog. The dog was tethered to a run in the back yard of the residence. The victim's husband beat the coyote down with a 2-by-2, and police later killed it. The victim is believed to be the 1st person ever attacked by a rabid coyote in Massachusetts and only the second person ever attacked by a coyote in the state, according to state wildlife officials.
The only other recorded attack on a human by a coyote also occurred on Cape Cod. In 1998, a coyote snatched a 3 year old boy from a swing set in Sandwich. His mother intervened and the boy was not badly injured.
The victim was treated at Cape Cod Hospital and released before noon. Doctors gave her tetanus shots and started a regimen of rabies vaccinations, [presumably this waspost-exposure prophylaxis - Mod.TG] although they did not know then that the animal was rabid.
Last night, after the state health department diagnosed the coyote as rabid, the victim's husband said doctors told his wife she would need additional shots over the next 28 days.
A Barnstable Animal Control Officer retrieved the coyote's carcass, and prepared it for rabies testing at a state lab in Boston. Biologists interviewed yesterday said coyotes can carry rabies, but rarely do. From 1992 to 2002, only 6 of 65 coyotes tested for rabies in the state registered positive, according to Tom O'Shea of MassWildLife, a division of the state Division of Fisheries and Wildlife. Coyote sightings have become common throughout Massachusetts in recent years, coinciding with growing reports of disappearing cats, dogs, and, in at least one case, turkeys.
But biologists do not have any reliable population estimates, or evidence of a population explosion, they said yesterday. Coyotes tend to move in packs of 3 or 4 and occupy a territory of 5 to 10 square miles, according to Jonathan Way, a Boston College doctoral candidate who tracks coyotes on the Cape. Way said housing developments in once-wild areas have brought people and wildlife, including coyotes, closer together. "The Cape is pretty much saturated with coyotes," he said. "The key is to learn how to avoid interaction."
The victim said coyotes are a common sight in her neighborhood, which borders several acres of undeveloped water department land, but none has ever menaced her or her family until yesterday. Neighborhood pets are another matter. The victim's husband stated he believed his was the only cat left in the neighborhood. The victim's dog was taken to the veterinarian later in the afternoon yesterday. The veterinarian said the dog showed no signs of puncture wounds, but suffered a sprained leg.
[Hopefully, the dog was vaccinated against rabies. The veterinarian should have re-vaccinated the dog - Mod.TG]
(Rabies in coyotes may be rare only on Cape Cod. It is prevalent in coyotes
in other parts of the United States. - Mod.TG)
Patricia A. Doyle, PhD
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