The coyote that charged a bow hunter Saturday in the Chiricahuas has tested positive for rabies. The attack occurred at 6 p.m., Saturday, Jan. 13, on a trail in Green Canyon, according Public Information Officer Mark A. Hart, with the Arizona Game and Fish Department.
“A hunter just down from a tree stand was charged by a coyote with teeth bared,” he told the Range News. “He struck it with his bow to fend off the attack, then shot the coyote with an arrow when it was down.”
Just prior to the attack, the coyote may have attacked a calf, “but was then rushed by other cattle in a nearby herd,” Hart said prior to the results, which were obtained Thursday morning. “That may be a simple explanation for the behavior, but we must always be cautious about the possibility of rabies in species other than the most common carriers – foxes, bats, and skunks.”
After three separate incidents recently in Southern Arizona, Game and Fish issued a statement Jan. 17, urging the public to “avoid and promptly report” wildlife behaving erratically.
In addition to the Jan. 13 coyote attack in the Chiricahuas, a fox attack occurred Jan. 16 in Dudleyville, as well as what the agency called a “rare coyote bite” Jan. 15 on Tucson’s west side.
“The latest attacks follow a Vail woman being bit Jan. 10 by a fox,” Hart said in his Jan. 17 statement. “Rabies is suspected in that case, but test results are pending.”
The Jan. 15 incident occurred off Bonita Avenue, in Tucson, when a woman sustained a coyote bite on her thigh while on a work break, resting in her car with the passenger door open.
While the wound was minor, rabies treatment was required, Hart said. The coyote was found Wednesday, Jan. 17, in the same area and humanely euthanized, he said.
Bites were not involved in the coyote attack in Green Canyon nor the fox attack near the Arizona Trail in Dudleyville, Hart said.
“In both cases, victims fought back, with the fox being kicked away and probably killed later about a mile away, and the coyote being struck and killed on scene,” he said.
Pinal County recently confirmed that a fox recovered Jan. 8 in Kearny was rabid, Hart said.
“Avoid contact with and don’t approach wildlife that is behaving abnormally or appears to be ill,” Regional Supervisor Raul Vega, with Game and Fish in Tucson, said, adding, “avoid touching any dead wildlife that you may find, and keep your pets away from them, as well.”
If you believe that you see a rabid animal, call Game and Fish at 1-623-236-7201 immediately, he said.
“Pets, such as dogs and cats, as well as livestock, like horses, should be regularly vaccinated for rabies,” Vega said in the Jan. 17 statement. “In addition, dogs should be on leashes when outdoors, and a veterinarian consulted if any domestic animals are injured by wildlife. Unvaccinated animals exposed to wildlife with rabies must undergo a four-month quarantine.”
Hart called rabies “a preventable viral disease, most often transmitted through the bite of a rabid animal.”
“The rabies virus attacks the central nervous system, causing encephalitis (swelling of the brain). It is almost always fatal once symptoms appear,” he said. “Rabies can be prevented in persons who have come into contact or have been bitten by wild animals through prompt administration of anti-rabies vaccine and rabies immune globulin.”
In Arizona, the principal rabies hosts are bats, skunks, and foxes, which carry their own distinct rabies virus variants or “strains,” Hart said.
“When rabies activity within these animal groups increases, rabies can ‘spill over’ into other mammal species, such as bobcats, coyotes, javelina, cats, dogs, horses, cows, etc.,” he said. “Rabid animals may appear disoriented or intoxicated, salivate heavily or appear thirsty.”
In Arizona, about 15 people are exposed to rabid animals every year, Hart said.
People who are exposed must receive vaccine and anti-rabies serum treatment to prevent infection.