Public health teams up with Fish and Wildlife after reports of unusual coyote behavior in Portland

November 6, 2018

Public health officials from Multnomah and Washington counties, along with the Oregon Health Authority, are working with the state’s Department of Fish and Wildlife after residents in southwest Portland reported two incidents of coyotes attacking children.

A coyote takes to the street. Credit: Shrewsbury, MA

In the most recent case a girl was reportedly bitten by an animal suspected to be a coyote. Two weeks ago, another girl was reportedly scratched by a young coyote. Both occurred in the Bridlemile district of SW Portland, near the Fanno Creek Natural Area.

According to Fish and Wildlife, coyote attacks on people are very rare. Normally coyotes try to avoid people, so conflict is typically seen when coyotes become habituated to residential areas due to easy food sources, or when they have a disease (rabies or distemper) or some other neurologic condition.

Anyone who sees a coyote acting strangely, such as getting too close to people or making contact by biting or jumping on people, should immediately call 911.

All animal bite injuries can become infected so it is important to see a medical provider. Some mammals can also carry the rabies virus. Bats are the most common carrier of rabies, but other wild mammals that have tested positive for rabies in Oregon include foxes and coyotes.

Coyotes are not actively checked for rabies, but no coyotes have tested positive for rabies in Multnomah or Washington counties in the last 10 years, according to Oregon Health Authority. Rabid coyotes have been found in other parts of the state, including Marion County in 2017, Baker County in 2013, and Josephine County in 2011.

Anyone bitten or scratched by a coyote or any other wild animal should:

  • Wash the wound immediately with soap and water, then

  • See a medical provider.

Any medical provider who receives a report of a wild animal bite must contact their local health department immediately about the need for vaccines to prevent rabies transmission. Bites and scratches from any mammal acting strangely should be carefully evaluated for the risk of rabies.

Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife biologists are investigating these reports.  At this time Fish and Wildlife is monitoring the situation but not planning to trap or track the offending coyotes due to the difficulty of working across many properties and finding the specific animal(s) involved in the incidents.

Coyotes are common in Oregon and can be found in every corner of the state, in both urban and rural areas. They are highly adaptive to new places and can quickly learn to feed on pet food, garbage, compost piles, and small pets.

Avoid Conflicts with Coyotes

Most conflicts between humans and coyotes happen when the animals have grown used to humans. Help prevent coyotes from getting too comfortable by following these guidelines from the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife:

Remove temptation

  • Feed pets indoors and do not leave pet food or water bowls outside.

  • Secure garbage and garbage cans. Consider using bleach to remove odors.

  • Harvest fruits and vegetables as they ripen.

  • Remove bird feeders, which attract prey.

  • Secure compost piles.

  • Clean barbecues regularly.

Secure your home

  • Trim and clear vegetation that provides cover for coyotes or their prey.

  • Build a coyote-proof perimeter fence.

Protect the family

  • Do not leave small children unattended outdoors if coyotes have been in the area.

  • Supervise pets when they are outside.

  • Do not leave cats or small dogs out after dark.

  • Bring livestock and fowl into barns, sheds or coyote-proof enclosures at night.