Coyote bites 2-year-old at Phoenix city park

Posted: Updated:

PHOENIX – A 2-year-old girl has to undergo rabies treatment after a coyote bit her while she was sitting with a group of children in the playground area of a Phoenix park.

It happened Friday evening at Cave Creek Park, which is near 23rd Avenue and Thunderbird Road.

According to the Arizona Game and Fish Department, the toddler’s parents and several other adults chased the coyote away. The girl was not severely injured -- the coyote only nipped her on the back -- but she was given precautionary shots for potential rabies exposure.

Game and Fish was called out to the park and caught six coyotes from the area. The coyotes were tested for rabies and one test came back negative. The results of the tests on the other five animals are pending.

According to Game and Fish biologists, increased wildlife activity is not unusual this time of year. Not only are the temperatures warming up, it’s also the end the of the breeding season.

"If you see an animal such as a coyote, bobcat or javelina near your home, there's no need to panic, but it's a good idea to keep your distance and be observant of the animal's behavior," said Darren Julian, an urban wildlife specialist with Game and Fish, in a news release.

Animal experts say wildlife aggression and attacks on people are relatively uncommon, but they can happen.

In general, there are three main reasons that wild animals make their way into populated areas.

"When wild animals come into neighborhoods, they are usually looking for food, water or shelter," Julian said. "If you make it hard for the animals to find these things, they are less likely to hang around your house or neighborhood."

Julian said it’s imperative to remember that wild animals, no matter how friendly they might appear, can be unpredictable. He said while it might seem like you’re helping, you should never feed them or leave water for them.

Coyotes are especially resilient and adaptable. If it's beneficial to them, they can get used to being around areas of human activity, particularly neighborhoods near urban-wildland interfaces, or even parks and golf courses, Julian said.

Game and Wildlife offered the following tips for keeping wild animals away from your home:

• Do not feed wildlife under any circumstances (In Maricopa and Pima counties, it is against the law to feed wildlife other than birds and tree squirrels.);

• Remove wildlife attractants such as dog food and water bowls from around your home;

• Make possible den sites or shelters unavailable by blocking them with fencing or other devices;

* Keep small household pets indoors;

* Let the animal know it's not welcome by making it uncomfortable. You can do this by shouting at the animal, banging pots and pans together, spraying it with a hose from a distance, or by illuminating the area at night.

While rabies is rare in Maricopa County, any mammal can contract it. Rabid animals can be unusually aggressive toward humans. Signs of rabies include staggering, foaming at the mouth, and lethargic or hyperactive behavior.

If a wild animal will not leave your property after you repeatedly try to frighten it away, or if it is showing signs of aggressive or unusual behavior, call the Arizona Game and Fish Department at 602-942-3000.

To learn more about living with urban wildlife, visit the Game and Fish Department website.