(Photo courtesy Thomas Smith/Gado Images)
According to a message from the Moraga, California Police Department released on the morning of Friday, March 12, authorities have caught and culled the rogue coyote responsible for a series of at least 5 attacks on humans in the Lamorinda area.
The message read:
The California Department of Fish and Wildlife has announced today that the responsible coyote in the attacks in both Moraga and Lafayette was caught and euthanized yesterday morning. DNA testing was conducted which matched the DNA recovered from the bite victims.
According to the department, "U.C. Davis veterinary staff will be conducting a rabies test on the coyote" although "here is no current evidence to suggest the coyote is rabid." The coyote's victims--who included two toddlers, a grocery store worker, and a man exercising in Moraga--were reportedly vaccinated against rabies as a precaution following the attacks.
Why was the coyote euthantized? This was likely done because, according to the department, "Rabies tests can only be done post-mortem." According to the department's announcement, "because of the severity of the disease, [performing a rabies test] is standard operating procedure in an animal attack investigation such as this one"
In a statement to this reporter, a spokesperson for the Moraga Police Department said:
We are very appreciative of the efforts of both the California Department of Fish and Wildlife and the US Department of Agriculture – Wildlife Services for their hard work in catching this animal. There has been a tremendous amount of work done by these agencies and their staff. We’re also thankful for the responsiveness of our residents and their reporting of coyotes in the neighborhoods. This information was instrumental in assisting the team in locating and catching the offending coyote.
Residents of the Lamorinda community, especially those with young kids or outdoor pets, often found themselves feeling "terrorized" by the coyote's attacks, many of which took place during the daytime and in relatively populated areas, including behind stores along Mount Diablo Boulevard in Lafayette.
The coyote's behavior is considered extremely rare by experts. Most coyotes live peacefull alongside humans, and attacks against humans are rare. They have been increasing recently, though, possibly as a result of the Covid-19 coronavirus and the increased time which humans are spending outdoors, and thus in the traditional ranges of coyotes and other wildlife.
According to a spokesperson from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, the coyote was "captured via trapping by USDA, Wildlife Services" before being "euthanized then sent to the Wildlife Forensics Lab in Sacramento.." Testing reportedly "took all day", as authorities likely wanted to use advanced DNA forensics technology to ensure that they had captured the correct coyote. The Department said that "Evidence from CDFW’s wildlife forensics lab matched the DNA of this coyote to samples taken from each of the five victims."
The coyote's capture and removal is likely to end the ongoing series of attacks in the Lamorinda area. Citizens can now breath a sigh of relief in terms of that specific coyote, but should remain vigilant about coyote behavior in general, and should continue to take precautions to keep themselves safe.
Regarding coyote safety and coyote activity going forward, the Moraga Police said:
These animals will continue to live in and around our communities. Anyone who is interested in obtaining more information about these animals and living around them can go to www.keepmewild.org where there are helpful tips on how we can all better coexist with coyotes and other wild animals around us. Any questions or concerns can be directed to the Moraga Police at 925-888-7055, ext. 0 or the California Department of Fish and Wildlife at 916-508-7095.
Thanks to the actions of the Moraga Police Department, Department of Fish and Wildlife, and other agencies, the immediate coyote threat is likely to abate. Longer term, citizens can follow guidelines to keep themselves safe from any future attacks.
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