Hunt on for Greenburgh coyote that attacked woman

January 27, 2010 3:59:18 PM PST
Police in Westchester County are looking for a coyote that has attacked twice. The first incident involved a woman walking on a trail. The second involved a pit bull. Both attacks happened in the town of Greenburgh.

What began as a leisurely afternoon stroll through a local wooded park ended in a shockingly violent and unexpected attack.

"He lunged at my leg," victim Jill Happel said. "He lunged at my back and at my arm."

Happel showed off the puncture wounds she suffered after the coyote pounced on her Tuesday afternoon as she hiked through Travis Hill Park.

"I was screaming at him," she said. "They always say don't run away from a wild animal, but all my years of backpacking, I've never encountered anything like this. And I just ran at breakneck speed."

Later, another resident near the park reported his pit bull was attacked by a coyote. Police officers searching on the ground and in the air spotted the wild animal, but it got away.

Another coyote was captured elsewhere in Westchester several years ago, but fits the description of the Greenburg coyote exactly: the yellowish coat, dog-like appearance and sharp teeth.

It is still not known why the animal attacked.

"It could be that the coyote was feeding, and they're territorial," said Ken Ross, of the Westchester SPCA. "Could be that the mating season has started and again. They become a little bit more aggressive."

Police say they've ruled out using a trap to catch the coyote because they don't want to mistakenly trap any of the other animals that live in the woods.

"We are going to just monitor the area," Greenburgh police Lieutenant B. Joseph Ryan said. "Have officers checking in the wooded areas, as well from time to time that have a hunting background, so to speak, trying to trap the animal."

People who live near the park are being warned not to leave small children or pets unattended and to make sure their garbage is secure.

As for Happel, her wounds have been treated and she's already begun the tedious series of rabies shots, though there's no evidence the coyote was rabid.