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Coyote bites woman on westside; part of rash of wildlife attacks

Posted at 1:28 PM, Jan 17, 2018
and last updated 2018-01-18 13:17:10-05

A Tucson woman was bitten by a coyote on Monday, according to the Arizona Game and Fish Department. The animal was later euthanized in the same area on the west side and tested positive for rabies.

Wildlife officials say the rare coyote bite is one of three reported wildlife attacks in Southern Arizona in the last week. They are now urging people to avoid and report wild animals that may be acting erratically. 

A fox attacked a person in Dudleyville Tuesday and a coyote attacked a person in the Chiricahua Mountains Saturday. Neither of those involved actual bites, according to a press release from Arizona Game and Fish.

The coyote in the Chriricahua Mountains was killed at the scene and the fox was believed to have been killed about a mile away.

The incident involving the coyote on the west side in Tucson happened near Bonita Avenue. KGUN9 spoke to the woman who was bitten by the animal. Isabel Martinez says she was on a break from work and sitting in her car with the door open when she felt a "pinch" on her thigh. For seven years Martinez says this has been her routine -- relaxing in her car in the parking lot. 

"I didn't know how to react at first. It was just surprising," Martinez said. "You know I just got bit by a coyote. I didn't know how to tell anybody. It was just an awkward story."

When Martinez noticed it was a coyote, she closed her car door. She says the animal circled her car, came back to her door and jumped on it. Martinez attempted to scare him off by banging on the window and yelling.

The coyote didn't appear to be scared or startled by her, Martinez said. It eventually wandered off to some nearby trees.

When reality sunk in, she was able to figure out what to do next and went to the nearest hospital for preventative treatments. Martinez says she got ten shots in the first treatment and will continue to go back.

Testing is still underway to see if the coyote that bit Martinez was infected with rabies.

Game and Fish officials say the coyote was located in the same area on Wednesday and was "humanely" euthanized. Wildlife officials say they commonly see rabies in foxes, bats and skunks. Here's more from the department: 

When rabies activity within these animal groups increases, rabies can "spill over" into other mammal species, such as bobcats, coyotes, javelina, cats, dogs, horses, cows, etc. Rabid animals may appear disoriented or intoxicated, salivate heavily or appear thirsty.

Arizona Game and Fish confirmed the fox that bit a woman in Vail last week tested positive for rabies. A fox found in Kearny earlier this month was also confirmed to be rabid.

MORE: Fox attacks Vail woman, rabies suspected.

If you think you've been exposed to rabies experts say seek medical attention within 24 to 48 hours. Unnatural behavior may be a sign of rabies, experts say.

Paula Mandel, the deputy director at the Pima County Health Department, says that preventative rabies treatment comes in the form of four vaccines. 

"You get one on the day of exposure or within that 24 to 48-hour period," Mandel said. "Then you receive a subsequent dose three days, seven days and 14 days after exposure."

The bite Martinez received was minor and not a deep wound, but she said it did break the skin. She says she's seen coyotes her whole life growing up in Tucson. 

Despite the incident she says she's not afraid of coyotes, but recognizes that the are wild animals.

Mark Hart with Arizona Game and Fish says coyote bites among humans are extremely rare and there may be one or two reported in the state each year. The animals typically get scared off by humans.

It is not normal for coyotes to attack humans, but according to information on the Arizona Game and Fish website, they "can be a risk to people once they become comfortable around humans, usually as a result of feeding or indifference."

LEARN MORE: here is more information about coyotes

Below is more information about rabies from Arizona Game and Fish: 

Rabies is a preventable viral disease most often transmitted through the bite of a rabid animal. The rabies virus attacks the central nervous system, causing encephalitis (swelling of the brain). It is almost always fatal once symptoms appear.

Rabies can be prevented in persons who have come into contact or have been bitten by wild animals through prompt administration of anti-rabies vaccine and rabies immune globulin.

Officials warn people to stay away from wild animals, especially those behaving abnormally.

You can call (623) 236-7201 or (520) 724-7797 to report incidents.