A 4-year-old and his mother are recovering from minor injuries after they were attacked Thursday evening in a New Jersey park by a coyote that was quickly hunted down and shot dead by an officer, police said.
The 37-year-old woman was pushing her son in a stroller around 7 p.m. when someone alerted her that a coyote might be following her, police in the northwestern township of Fairfield said in a news release.
As she turned to look, the coyote lunged at the woman, police said. She fell to the ground, and the stroller tipped over, police said.
The coyote then bit the woman on the back of her leg and went after the child, biting his right leg, police allege.
As people in the park raced to help, the mom managed to get up and hoist up the stroller, police said. That's when the coyote lunged at her again before taking off into a wooded area.
The mother and child were taken to a hospital, and police closed the park -- including canceling a youth soccer game and pick-up basketball -- and called in state experts and the Associated Humane Society to help search for the animal.
Just after 8:30 p.m., Sgt. Frank Tracey spotted the coyote near a pool in a nearby backyard, police said.
Armed with an M4 patrol rifle, he exited his squad car.
The coyote "began to aggressively approach" the sergeant, police said. He fired several shots "to protect himself," police said, and killed the coyote.
The animal will be tested for rabies by the humane society, police said.
It's not clear whether the coyote is the same animal that attacked a nearby Doberman Pinscher the previous evening, police said, noting that residents have reported "seeing and hearing a large number of coyotes behind their homes."
Reports of coyotes in the area have increased significantly since 1980, the New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife said, though there's no formal population estimate.
While coyotes are known to occasionally attack small pets, attacks on humans are "extremely rare" in eastern states, as coyotes are "by nature wary of humans," the agency said. Exposure to human food and garbage, however, may cause coyotes to lose their caution and fear.
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