Unusual String of Coyote Bites Hits West Valley, Arizona

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A series of unprovoked coyote bites have been reported at the Trilogy at Vistancia community in Peoria over the past few days. Three bites with no serious injuries have occurred to residents of this community in less than 24 hours.

The first occurred the evening of March 12 when a woman was bitten on the ankle while resting on her back porch. The Peoria Police Department was the first law enforcement agency to respond, and they pursued three animals they encountered near the scene. One coyote was killed by officers. The victim’s bite injuries were minor, and she received medical treatment and was released that same evening. 

Two additional bites, both to residents who were on their porches, occurred at approximately 3 p.m. yesterday. The first was to a woman who was bitten on the chest while reclining in a chair, and the other was to the calf of a man. 

Bites to humans by wild animals are unusual. In the past 15 years, there have been 18 documented bites to humans by coyotes in Maricopa County. The majority of these bites can be traced back to illegal feeding of coyotes by residents in the communities where the bites occurred. However, a few were the result of territorial behavior by adult coyotes protecting young of the year. In the Vistancia incidents, none of the actions of the bite victims could be construed as provoking an attack, nor was there any food or other attractants directly associated with the bite incidents.

“We believe territorial or breeding behavior is what precipitated these animals’ aggressive behavior in these incidents,” said Darren Julian, urban wildlife specialist for the Arizona Game and Fish Department. “Bites from any type of wildlife are uncommon, especially this many bites to humans in such a short span of time.

The Arizona Game and Fish Department, in cooperation with the Peoria Police Department and USDA Wildlife Services, is trying to remove the coyotes responsible for the bites. To date, two animals have been destroyed and submitted for rabies testing. Efforts to remove the offending coyotes will continue until the animals are captured or until the operations are no longer feasible. 

“We test every animal associated with a human attack for diseases,” said Julian. “It’s a precautionary measure and our way of ensuring the continued health of both people and local wildlife.”

When encountering wildlife, it is important to stay a safe distance and to not encourage interactions with them. People are reminded that feeding wild animals is not a good practice, and in fact is against the law in Maricopa and Pima counties (other than feeding birds and squirrels). Wildlife experts also caution people to avoid any animals accompanied by young or that are behaving in an unusual manner, such as approaching humans.

Valley residents should report aggressive or unusual wildlife behavior to the Arizona Game and Fish Department Region 6 office in Mesa at (480) 981-9400 during business hours, or at (623) 236-7201 24 hours a day. For residents in other areas of the state, office contact information for other regional offices is located at www.azgfd.gov/offices.

The Maricopa County Department of Public Health, one of the agencies with which Arizona Game and Fish works on issues such as these, reminds Valley residents that anyone bitten by a coyote or wild animal should call the Maricopa County Department of Public Health at (602) 747-7500.

For more information about living with urban wildlife, visit www.azgfd.gov/urbanwildlife.