ODFW: Someone may be feeding coyotes that attacked 2 kids
Two coyote attacks on children are under investigation in Southwest Portland, state and local health officials confirm.
The first attack occurred on Oct. 19 after a young coyote reportedly scratched an 8-year-old girl playing outside after school. The incident did not draw blood.
A more serious attack occurred on Nov. 2 — when a 7-year-old girl was bit on the leg by an animal believed to be a coyote. Both incidents occurred in locations off Southwest Scholls Ferry Road near the Fanno Creek Natural Area.
Staffers say an animal is clearly getting too cozy with humanity — and the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife says there's a chance someone may be intentionally feeding it.
"If there's a coyote issue, it tends to be a feeding problem or it could be that they have rabies or some other disease," said ODFW spokeswoman Michelle Dennehy, noting that other states have discovered residents hand-feeding the beasts or leaving out pet food.
Despite the consternation, the department has no plans to trap or track coyotes at this time. That's because ODFW workers do not have the authority to discharge a firearm within Portland city limits, and government-hired hunters and trappers can not traipse onto private property without the permission of each landowner.
Dennehy adds that the area is too closely packed with humans and other wildlife to deploy traps that indiscriminately capture anything that wanders into them.
"We'd have the potential to trap so many other coyotes — or kids or pets," she explained. "There are just so many coyotes. It would be such a long shot to catch the one that actually bit the girl."
For now, officials continue to consider the hypothesis that the coyote is being habituated to humans due to frequent access to pet food or unsecured trash. Another possibility is that the close relative of the wolf could have rabies, distemper or another neurological disorder.
Coyotes are not actively checked for rabies here, and administrators say the last corroborated case of a local coyote infected with rabies was reported more than 10 years ago. Rapid coyotes were found in Marion County in 2017, in Baker County in 2013 and in Josephine County in 2011.
"If the coyote does it again, that person calls 911 and that coyote gets shot by law enforcement. That's our best chance to get it," said Dennehy.
Health professionals say anyone bitten by a wild animal should immediately wash the wound with soap and water, and then contact a medical professional, who will be required by law to contact the authorities and request a rabies vaccine.
The best way to prevent coyote intrusions is to remove all sources of "temptation," including outdoor pet food, barbecue leftovers, tasty compost piles, bird feeders that attract prey, food rotting on the vine in gardens, livestock, pets and unattended small children. Trash containers should be secured and can even be washed with bleach if necessary.
"Anyone who sees a coyote acting strangely, such as getting too close to people or making contact by biting or jumping on people, should immediately call 911," officials in Washington and Multnomah counties warned in a statement. "Coyotes are common in Oregon and can be found in every corner of the state, in both urban and rural areas."