Coyote attacks prompt student-protection measures

September 14, 2010 2:47:22 PM PDT
Local schools are taking new steps to protect children from coyotes.

They are arming teachers and school aids with air horns.

The move comes after a several coyote sightings occurred around Westchester County.

School officials hope a blast from an air horn will hopefully scare away any coyote approaching a school playground in Rye Brook.

"We have adults out there with them, but this is just another tool, another sense that we have something we can use if we need to," said Deborah Weisel, school principal.

Police suggested to schools in that part of Westchester to try and equip playground monitors and teachers aids with air horns or anything that makes noise.

"It's been good to educate our students and teachers and coaches and physical education teachers in what to do in the event they see an animal," said Jim Spano, Director of Athletics.

"We had recommended that to the summer camps and most of them did that, this is just a continuation," Rye Police Commissioner William Connors said.

Concerns over coyotes, intensified over the Labor Day weekend when one was shot dead after attacking Eric Mandel at a party in Rye Brook.

"It lunged at me. I guess it was instinct. I hit the mouth away almost as it was about to bite me," Mandel said.

The coyote also attacked a 2-year-old girl and her father before being killed by wildlife trappers.

"The basic advice on coyotes is to make yourself bigger. To make noise, to throw sticks, or stones, use and air horn, possible pepper spray," Connors said.

Even Eric said he knew to scare it away with loud noises.

"As long as the kids are aware of it, so it doesn't frighten the kids, then it is probably fine," said Anne Gessow, a parent.

"I think they need to get rid of the coyotes first and foremost, but yeah, whatever we can do to keep them safe I'm all for," said Tish Richard, a parent.

Animal experts say coyotes normally avoid confrontations with humans.

When facing an unpleasant situation, they may likely avoid the area and people all together.

The coyote that was shot and killed was found to have rabies. There have also been more sightings over the past week.

If you or your pet came into contact with this coyote, you are urged to contact the Westchester County Department of Health immediately at (914) 813-5000 to assess the need for rabies treatment. Anyone bitten by a rabid animal or who has contact with its saliva will need to receive immediate rabies vaccination.

For more information about rabies and its prevention, residents can call the Rabies Infoline at (914) 813-5010 or visit the Health Department's website at