Coyote attacking people at Rutgers could have rabies
UPDATE: Rutgers police said they trapped and euthanized an aggressive coyote on Thursday. Officials said that the animal's "unusually aggressive behavior indicated that it was most likely sick." The coyote will be tested for rabies. Results are expected next week.
PISCATAWAY — State wildlife officials have set multiple traps in a wooded area that is part of the Rutgers University campus to catch the coyote that has been attacking people over the past week.
On Nov. 14, a student walking on the Livingston Campus at 4 a.m. was bitten on the leg by a coyote. On Tuesday, a pedestrian walking near a parking lot on the same campus was also attacked, but the coyote only tore his pant legs and did not actually draw blood.
Department of Environmental Protection Division of Fish and Wildlife Director Dave Golden said on Wednesday that the coyote may have rabies.
“When coyotes get rabies they do lose that natural fear of people, so they will approach, they’ll exhibit behaviors that are atypical, they’ll bite at objects, even inanimate objects," he said.
If the coyote is rabid, “there’s a possibility that the animal may die on its own. Lots of times when animals reach this point, they don’t have much time left so sometimes they just exhaust themselves.”
Until then, however, the animal is dangerous.
Golden said if people encounter a coyote, “they should make their presence known, make loud noises. If it’s a healthy coyote or a coyote exhibiting normal behavior, that coyote will run away.”
If the animal approaches, Golden said people should throw something or do anything to keep it at bay.
He said cable-restraint traps have been set up on campus. If the animal is captured, it will be euthanized and tested for rabies.
Golden said it’s not clear how many coyotes may be in the area, but they have become more adapted to suburban habitats.
Members of the Division of Fish and Wildlife will continue to be at the university for at least the next week, checking traps and monitoring the situation.
Rutgers University-New Brunswick Police Chief Kenneth Cop said the safety and security of students, faculty, staff and visitors at Rutgers is their top priority and “we have sent messaging to the community with safety tips to keep the community informed.”
He noted the Rutgers Preserve, a wooded area, has been closed for the time being, and eight police patrols are scouring the area.
Cop said if students feel nervous, “we do have a safety escort service that will safely bring people to locations, should they request that service.”
You can contact reporter David Matthau at David.Matthau@townsquaremedia.com