FAIRFIELD (Essex) — Police shot and killed a coyote on Thursday after it attacked a mom and her 4-year-old son at an Essex County park earlier in the afternoon.

A 37-year-old woman was pushing her son in a stroller at the Fairfield Recreation Complex just before 7 p.m. when a passerby told her that a coyote was following her, police said.

The woman turned around to see and the coyote jumped at her. The woman fell and the stroller tipped over.

The coyote bit the woman and child in their legs as people ran over and tried to help.

Police said that as the woman got up and righted the stroller, the coyote lunged again at the woman before it ran into the woods. The woman and child were hospitalized.

Police closed the complex and notified the state Department of Environmental Protection as officers searched the surrounding neighborhood for the wild animal.

On Big Piece Road, the coyote leaped from behind a pool and tried to attack a police officer, who shot at the coyote with his M4 patrol rifle. The Associated Humane Society took the coyote carcass to test it for rabies.

Neighbors said they have been seeing coyotes roaming their properties in recent days. On Wednesday evening, a coyote attacked a Doberman pinscher.

The park and neighborhood where the coyote attacked is separated by Route 80 from the 7,100-acre Great Piece Meadows.

“The Fairfield Police Department is still cautioning all residents in the area of Big Piece Road and all those who use the recreation complex that they still need to exercise great caution when walking around their yards or in the park,” Police Chief Anthony G. Manna said.

He said officers with rifles will be deployed at several scheduled events taking place at the community pool and a nearby school to assure public safety.

According to the the state Department of Environmental Protection, coyotes are not native to the state and were likely brought here by someone before 1950. They have been been able to survive in New Jersey's cold weather.

Eastern coyotes are larger than those found in the west and can have blond, red and black fur colors. Past interbreeding between wolves and coyotes may be responsible for the larger size and colors.

Coyotes feed on rabbits, mice, birds and other small animals, as well as young and weakened deer. They also consume rotting flesh.

The DEP's guideline to reduce the likelihood of conflicts with coyotes include:

  • Never feed a coyote. Deliberately feeding coyotes puts pets and other residents in the neighborhood at risk.
  • Feeding pet cats and/or feral cats outdoors can attract coyotes. The coyotes feed on the pet food and also prey upon the cats.
  • Put garbage in tightly closed containers that cannot be tipped over.
  • Remove sources of water.
  • Bring pets in at night.
  • Put away bird feeders at night to avoid attracting rodents and other coyote prey.
  • Provide secure enclosures for rabbits, poultry, and other farm animals.
  • Pick up fallen fruit and cover compost piles.
  • Although extremely rare, coyotes have been known to attack humans. Parents should monitor their children, even in familiar surroundings, such as backyards.
    Install motion-sensitive lighting around the house.
  • Clear brush and dense weeds from around dwellings - this reduces protective cover for coyotes and makes the area less attractive to rodents and rabbits. Coyotes, as well as other predators, are attracted to areas where rodents are concentrated like woodpiles.
  • If coyotes are present, make sure they know they're not welcome. Make loud noises, blast a canned air siren, throw rocks, or spray them with a garden hose.

Contact reporter Dan Alexander at Dan.Alexander@townsquaremedia.com or via Twitter @DanAlexanderNJ

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