OSSINING, N.Y. – A coyote that attacked several people in Ossining this week did have rabies, tests by the Westchester County Department of Health confirmed Friday.
Two residents of Mystic Pointe, a gated community off Route 9, were bitten while they were out walking their dogs. A third person reported having a run-in with the ailing animal, but was not believed to have been bitten.
Ossining animal control officers finally managed to track down and shoot the coyote in a wooded ravine Thursday after several attempts to trap it failed.
Jim Horton of Quality Pro Pest & Wildlife Service in Tarrytown, said the obviously sick coyote lunged at him while he was checking a trap Wednesday morning. Police came and tried to shoot the animal, but it escaped.
Ossining police said Friday that they were notified by county health officials that the rabies tests had come back positive.
They advised anyone who may have had direct contact with the coyote to call the Health Department at (914) 813-5000. They should also call if they think their pets may have been exposed.
According to Caren Halbfinger, a Health Department spokeswoman, callers will be asked a series of questions by nurses in order to determine exposure.
Included in those questions, she said, would be if their pets are up to date on their rabies vaccinations.
Police said they currently have no information that any other animals or people have been exposed to the disease, but still advised people in the area to exercise normal caution when out walking, especially near wooded areas.
As per local law, all dogs should be kept on a leash, police said.
Coyotes have been spotted strolling around during the day in Briarcliff in the areas of Tree Street, Cedar Drive East and Long Hill Road.
According to Village Manager Philip Zegarelli, there have been no reports of aggressive animals, or any direct confrontations with the coyotes. But, he said, there have been a few reports about missing cats.
Nevertheless, he said, residents were being advised to keep pets inside or on a leash to avoid “the potential for a lethal confrontation.”
If a resident spots a coyote, they should retreat to the safety of their homes, or car, Zegarelli said.
Animal experts are noticing more interbreeding between coyotes, wolves and feral dogs, Zegarelli said, adding: “I call that the Jurassic Park effect; they just keep getting bigger and more aggressive.”
The village is currently restrained by state Department of Environmental Conservation regulations from hiring a trapper.
In Ossining’s case, the rules were waived because people had been bitten and it was an emergency situation.
Briarcliff is spread over a wide area and there are lots of large estates for the coyotes to roam around, the village manager said.
“So it’s a concern,” he said, adding that there are ways to keep from attracting wildlife such as coyotes, skunks, raccoons and foxes, all animals which have been known to carry rabies.
In the meantime, there are a few things residents do to minimize interactions:
- Be vigilant when walking pets, especially small animals, and keep them on a leash.
- Keep all garbage secured, preferably indoors.
- Do not leave pet food outdoors.
- Limit potential hiding places for animals like wood piles. Seal off spaces underneath decks and porches.
According to coyotesmarts.or g , coyotes are timid and usually flee at the sight of a human, but if you spot old Wiley lounging in your yard, or actually approaching people or pets, do the following:
- Be as big and loud as possible. Don't run or turn your back, that gives them the green light to chase you.
- Wave your arms, clap your hands and shout.
- Bang pots and pans or use an air horn or whistle.
- Throw small stones, sticks, tennis balls or anything else you can lay your hands on.
- Spray with a hose or a squirt gun filled with water and vinegar.
- Shake or throw a “coyote shaker” -- a can filled with pennies or pebbles and sealed with duct tape.