CHICAGO (AP) — Authorities have captured a coyote in Chicago after two reported attacks by wild canines on humans in the city, including a 6-year-old boy who was bitten in the head.
Police and animal control officials chased the animal over several blocks before capturing it near an intersection on the city’s North Side just after 10 p.m. Thursday, according to Animal Care and Control.
Video shows the animal being shot with a tranquilizer and loaded into an agency van. Second Ward Alderman Brian Hopkins tweeted Friday that DNA tests would confirm if this was the animal involved in either of the attacks.
Officials were confident the animal that attacked the boy was a coyote, based on witness interviews, Kelley Gandurski, executive director of the Chicago Animal Care and Control, told reporters on Thursday.
If true, it would be the first time that a coyote has attacked a human in the state, according to a wildlife biologist with the Urban Coyote Research Project.
“The last several times that this occurred, people reported the same thing, that they were bitten by a coyote, and days and weeks later it turned out through DNA analysis of the victim’s clothing it was, in fact, dogs and not coyotes,” said Chris Anchor, who also works for the Forest Preserve District of Cook County, which includes Chicago.
The 6-year-old was attacked Wednesday outside the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum in Lincoln Park. Gandurski said the animal may have been surprised by the child who was running along a path.
Two DePaul University track team members who were running nearby helped to kick the animal away.
“We just acted. Went over there as fast as we could. Knew something was wrong,” sophomore Ryan Taylor told WBBM-TV.
Sophomore Dominic Bruce added: “I was just trying to make him happy. I told him you’ll have quite the story for story time when you go back to school.”
Later Wednesday, a man walked into the emergency room at Northwestern Memorial Hospital with a scratch on his behind, police said. He said a coyote bit him, but Gandurski could not confirm his account because her staff had not yet interviewed him.
Authorities said the boy and the man who reported being bitten did not suffer life-threatening injuries.
Dr. Tom Wake, the interim administrator of the Cook County Animal and Rabies Control, said the captured animal would be tested for rabies, though he noted it’s unlikely it was infected.
“There has not been a case of rabies in any other animal except bats since 1954 in Cook County,” he said.
On Thursday, two Lincoln Park schools went on brief soft lockdowns — meaning no children were allowed outside — after the reported sighting of a coyote in the wake of the attacks.
Coyotes don’t usually bite humans, but there have been confirmed minor attacks in other U.S. cities, according to Stan Gehrt, a wildlife ecology professor at Ohio State University who helped launch the Urban Coyote Research Project with Anchor in 2000.
Gandurski said reports of coyote sightings in the city have remained fairly consistent in recent years, but the recent increase may be because of cold weather and a lack of food.
Anchor, who monitors the movements of hundreds of coyotes that have been fitted with electronic collars, said it doesn’t mean more of the animals are in Chicago, but more that coyotes have changed their behavior in ways that make them more visible.
“They are very smart and when they realize there is nothing to fear from humans because they are not trapped, they begin to ignore humans,” he said.
Coyotes are adaptable. In Chicago, where the animals have been living for decades after following train tracks and other routes in search of food, they don’t just make their dens in parks and nature preserves, but in nooks and crannies around the city, he said. They will eat “whatever is available,” from small mammals and dead birds to fruit and insects, Anchor added.
Chicago Animal Care and Control urged residents to not leave pets unattended outside and to secure their garbage.
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