Experts Help Educate Public After Recent Coyote Attack in Brookville

BROOKVILLE, Pa. (EYT) – There’s no doubt that the recent coyote attack of a nurse who works at Laurelbrooke Landing in Brookville was a terrifying thing, but fortunately such incidents are extremely rare.

Late on the night of March 17, the nurse was taking a break outside at the rear of the nursing home when a coyote attacked, injuring her to the point where she needed two pints of blood, 18 stitches, and a series of painful rabies shots.

Fortunately, the woman quickly recovered from the harrowing experience and was soon back to work.

Officers from the Brookville Police Department and Pa. Game Commission spent time staking out the attack site and also set traps in the hopes of catching the animal.

While Brookville Police Chief Vince Markle said there was a reported sighting shortly after the attack, no coyotes have been seen, and none were caught.

Many believe the coyote was rabid and has since died.

On Wednesday night, four area wildlife experts gave a program about coyotes and rabies at Laurelbrooke Landing.

They included Pa. Game Commission officers Roger Hartless, George Miller, and Andy Troutman, as well as Penn State DuBois Professor Keely Roen.

PSU DuBois Keely Roen-Coyote Talk

“The assumption was that the coyote was rabid because attacks by them are so rare,” Roen said. “Less than 10 people are bit by coyotes annually in the United States. And, there are no documented cases of coyotes attacking for a second time, either.”

Roen said a person is 25 times more likely to be struck and killed by lightning than they are to be bit by a coyote. She also said that animals that exhibit signs of rabies will die in about 10 days or less.

Hartless, a veteran Game Warden in Jefferson County, also offered some statistics and facts about rabies.

“According to the Pa. Department of Health and Agriculture, there were three rabies cases in 2017 in Jefferson County, two were fox and one was a raccoon. And, that was a pretty high year for us,” Hartless said.

Hartless said there was just one rabid coyote found in Pa. in 2017, and that was in the northeastern part of the state in Susquehanna County.

Out of nearly 400 rabies cases in Pa. last year, 175 were raccoons and domestic cats numbered 63, second on the list.

In 2018, through February, there has been one rabid animal, a fox, found in the Northwest Region, Erie County.

Miller said signs of rabies in animals include excitability, lack of fear of humans, aggression, and also being oblivious to the presence of people.

“The best way to prevent rabies is to make sure domestic animals, dogs, cats, are vaccinated for it,” Hartless said. “And, if you believe an animal is rabid and have to shoot it, don’t shoot it in the head, because the brain has to be examined to determine if it was rabid.”

Roen also talked at length about rabies and how to act around wild animals.

“When they first show signs of it, they are typically dead in five to ten days,” Roen said. ‘Also, rabies doesn’t survive long in an animal after it has died, so it’s very unlikely another animal would contract if it found a dead animal and ate it.”

Roen also talked about ways to avoid conflicts with wild animals.

“It’s good to keep your dogs and cats inside at night, keep rabbits and chickens fenced in, and don’t put feed out for them,” Roen said.

She also said that the vast majority of healthy wild animals are very fearful of people, and it takes little to scare them away.

“Wild animals can be unpredictable, but mostly they don’t want to be around us. If you encounter a coyote or bear, wave your arms, yell, don’t run, that is something that can trigger their instinct to chase,” Roen said.

Miller spoke first about the history of the eastern coyote, how it developed, and its range expanded from the western U.S. to the east and bred with timber wolves and larger domestic dogs.

“Today, coyotes are found all over the state, even in Philadelphia. They are remarkably adaptable,” Miller said. “They will go where the food is. They are opportunists.”

“They will eat just about anything. Garbage, grass, pets, you name it. But their preferred food are mice and voles.”

Troutman said it’s rare to see a coyote during the daytime.

“They can be seen at any time of the day or night, but typically they are seen during the day after a farmer has cut his hayfield. The rodents have lost their cover, and the coyotes know it. They can get into a field and have a much better chance at getting one,” Troutman said.

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