Rabies test negative as AZGFD talks bigger coyote issue

Rabies test negative as AZGFD talks bigger coyote issue
Rabies test negative as AZGFD talks bigger coyote issue (Source: Arizona Game and Fish Department)

TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - The coyote that was euthanized after it bit a woman on the west side of Tucson tested negative for rabies, the Arizona Game and Fish Department said.

The department's spokesman was able to take a deep breath, knowing that what resulted could have been much worse.

"It's a tremendous relief because what we're monitoring is an outbreak of rabies and common species that carry it. Specifically, foxes, skunks, and bats," said Mark Hart, the Public Information Officer for the Arizona Game and Fish Department. "If that crosses over into urban wildlife species like coyote, javelina, and bobcat, we're going to have a problem."

Tucson News Now spoke to Isabel Martinez, the woman bitten by a coyote on Jan. 15 near W. St. Mary's Road and Bonita Avenue. She said she was terrified, wondering if that bite could be deadly for her.

It's why Martinez underwent rabies preventative treatment right away, regardless of the pending test results at the time.

Attacks like these have become a big issue recently. Hart said the department is aware of seven wild animal attacks in southeastern Arizona since Jan. 1, 2018.

Wild animal sightings are becoming more common where Martinez was attacked, and Hart was laying blame on those offering handouts.

"We were finding dishes of food out. That tells us - in some way, shape or form - wildlife is being fed," he said. "It leads us to the strong suspicion that coyote was being fed. It was literally following people almost into the door of (the Pima Community College Community Campus) because it had begun to associate humans with food."

People who work nearby, like Yorgelys Trujillo, said they have had encounters of their own.

She said she was out by her car after the battery had died, getting assistance from a good Samaritan.

"And we didn't even notice it until one of the parents kind of pointed it out. We turned around. We were like, 'Oh there's a coyote right there.' It was right in back of us minding its own business," Trujillo said.

But the coyotes' business is finding food. Hart said it's illegal to feed wildlife in Pima, Pinal, and Maricopa Counties, and it comes with a hefty $300 fine.

You can report violators to the Arizona Game and Fish Department by calling (800) 352-0700.

"Typically it's a scofflaw. Meaning we've already told them it's a bad idea and they keep feeding it," Hart said with a shrug. "But every time something like this comes up we pull this law off the shelf and start talking about it again because people have to realize there can be serious consequences."

Consequences, like a painful attack. It can be a simple bite or something much worse, Hart said.

"If you don't get prompt treatment for rabies, in all probability, you will die."

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