Environment & Science

Coyote euthanized following attack on 6-year-old

File: A coyote walks near a construction site in the Silver Lake neighborhood near downtown Los Angeles.
File: A coyote walks near a construction site in the Silver Lake neighborhood near downtown Los Angeles.
Stuart Palley for KPCC

The coyote who bit a 6-year-old boy's arm several weeks ago at Woodbridge Park has been euthanized, according to Andrew Hughan with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Under department guidelines, Fish and Wildlife seeks out animals that have attacked humans and euthanize them, Hughan said. In order to find the one that attacked the boy, 12 coyotes in total were killed.

Hughan said that the justification for killing that many coyotes is that there's no way to identify which animal made the original attack without testing, so they only kill coyotes who walk up to the same spot where the attack occurred. Other coyotes approaching the human who stays at the location indicate that those coyotes have also lost their fear of people, and they won't unlearn that behavior.

While traps are set out, coyotes rarely walk into them because they are intelligent animals, Hughan said. Instead, the trapper who sets the traps stands in the park in the middle of the night, and coyotes will approach due to losing their fear of people.

After trapping a coyote, they shoot the animal at close range with a low-caliber air rifle, then take it to a lab to perform analysis and verify that it's the correct animal, Hughan said. They also perform a rabies test, which Hughan said was intricate because there's only a tiny part of the coyote brain that holds the rabies. The coyote that bit the boy tested negative for rabies.

There are more people and more habitat loss, Hughan said, which is tied to the increased reporting of incidents with wildlife. Coyotes are becoming more habituated because of more people being near them. There were six confirmed bites in Irvine last year and four this year, which Hughan described as pretty dramatic.

One thing that's leading to more opportunity for coyote attacks is people walking their dogs in the early morning and late at night, which is when coyotes are the most active, Hughan said. Irvine is completely surrounded by coyote habitat.

There's no need to be afraid, Hughan said, but added that people need to be aware — especially when walking or running with headphones and in the early morning or late at night. Hughan said to be aware of your surroundings, including looking behind you, because a coyote may approach from behind.

Coyotes don't generally attack people, Hughan said, but they may nip at your heels — especially if you're a smaller person. They may also run and grab small dogs.