East Bay coyote bites fifth victim, adding urgency to hunt

A coyote that has attacked both grown men and children and eluded traps has spawned a massive, 24-hour search in this East Bay suburb, where jittery residents keep children close and hikers carry noisemakers.

The attacks started last summer. In each case, the apparently fearless coyote approached unsuspecting people and bit them before running off. All the victims recovered from their puncture wounds, and DNA has linked the attacks to a single coyote.

A woman whose 3-year-old daughter was bitten here last week said the animal retreated when she waved a blanket and shouted at it, only to keep drawing near again. The woman was pushing a stroller with her daughter at her side when the coyote approached. It finally fled.

The attacks occurred in a children’s playground, a residential street and a high school running track here and outside commercial stores in neighboring Lafayette.

A child-centric community that has attracted former Bay Area city dwellers, the collection of three suburbs known as Lamorinda sits east of the Oakland hills and is woodsy with vast open space. Coyotes, along with deer, bobcats, wild turkeys and the occasional mountain lion, have long moved through the area but predators have limited their hunting to other animals.

Authorities reassured residents on Tuesday that they would catch the elusive coyote.

“A detailed survey of the surrounding terrain has taken place, including using game trail cameras and field tracking, to determine the specific areas of coyote activity and patterns,” read an emailed alert from the Moraga Police Department, which announced the latest victim was a man bitten Friday outside a convenience store in Lafayette.

“Multiple trapping lines are in place, and there is a 24-hour effort to remove this animal.”

The state Department of Fish and Wildlife and the U.S. Department of Agriculture are “fully engaged,” the Police Department said.

“There is a 24×7 operation in place and the situation is being worked on every day,” the alert said. “There will also be DFW and/or USDA personnel stationed periodically in the area that are properly equipped to take action if necessary.”

Coyotes generally keep their distance from humans and rarely bite them. Authorities believe this coyote lost its fear of people possibly because people were feeding it. They said the animal, once it is caught, will be tested for rabies and then euthanized.

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