FAIRFIELD, NJ - Just one day after the coyote attacked her and her two young children at Hollywood Park in Fairfield, 36-year-old victim Tatiana, who chose not to disclose her last name, spoke out about the ordeal on Friday afternoon.
"We come here almost every day to run on the path and play in the park," she said. "On our second lap around the path I saw the coyote, which at first glance looked like a dog, and a woman running towards us and warning us to turn around and go back. The woman was screaming and the coyote began running quickly towards us."
Tatiana explained that she was pushing her two young children—Maya, 18 months, and Eric, 3—in a double stroller and quickly turned around but did not start running immediately.
"I thought that the coyote would just run past us," said Tatiana, adding that this is the first time she ever saw a coyote in town and had never been intimidated by an animal in any way.
Unfortunately, this was not the case and the coyote lunged on Tatiana and bit her on her rear end.
Tatiana said that after being bitten from behind she began running quickly while pushing the double stroller and the stroller suddenly tipped over in all the commotion.
"My son, Eric, was not strapped in and tumbled out of the stroller," she said. "Luckily the stroller was low to the ground and he only suffered a tiny scratch on his leg. Eric often walks around and plays so I do not usually strap him in."
When Eric was down on the ground, however, his mother said the coyote jumped on him and that her motherly instincts kicked in and she quickly grabbed his arm and pulled him up to safety. As she did so, the coyote then went to the other side of the stroller toward baby Maya and began lunging and biting on Maya's side of the stroller, according to Tatiana.
"You can still see the bite marks on the stroller from the coyote trying to get to Maya and we are very fortunate that the coyote did not touch the baby at all," she said.
Tatiana said she quickly collected Eric back into the stroller and began running toward the soccer field, where a practice was going on. She screamed for help while the coyote continued to bite her several more times and scratched her on her behind and upper leg, leaving holes in her leggings. She said is unsure, but assumed that eventually the coyote ran off.
"Maybe the coyote was finally scared away with all the screaming," she said.
Throughout the ordeal, Tatiana said that she continued to reassure her son, who was screaming and shaken up, that everything was okay.
"Above all, the safety of my children is the most important thing," she said. "Eric seems back to himself and is a trooper. He talks about the coyote and has named him Coco the Coyote. I hope that this doesn't impact their love of animals."
Tatiana and Eric received a round of seven painful shots in case of rabies and other infections and will need to receive three more in the coming weeks.
According to police, the coyote is being presumed rabid because of the way it attacked. The carcass of the animal is currently being tested, but Tatiana said that she and her son continue with the vaccines even if the rabies test comes back negative.
The Fairfield resident said she hopes she did everything right, noting that she knows it could have been worse and that she is grateful to everyone who responded so quickly. She thanked all first responders who assisted and and another female Fairfield resident for being there.
She also said that she didn't want to kick or provoke the coyote in any way because she was afraid it would make the coyote more agressive.
"I thought about running and diverting the coyote away from my children but was afraid that I would be hurt and they would be left alone with the coyote and noone to protect them," she said.
The mother said she intends to continue frequenting the park, but that she will probably not run near the woods anymore. She also said she would start keeping a whistle or stick in the stroller.
Fairfield Chief of Police Anthony Manna said that the park remains open to the public and that they are taking painstaking measures to keep the park and surrounding schools and neighborhoods safe for the public.
"There will be police patrolling the park throughout the weekend to hopefully return stability and normalcy to the area," said Manna, who also said that coyote traps have been set in certain areas as well. "We have to continue to live and interact with the animals but ofcourse have to be diligent when they come into our area and are agressive like in this case."
Manna cautioned residents to be aware of their surroundings and always take a quick look around.
"This is kind of a wildlife sanctuary if you will," said Manna. "We see deer and sometimes bears and now coyotes."
The Fairfield Police Department sent out the following statement to assure residents of the work beign done to ensure the safety of the community.
- There will continue to be a police presence in the park at this time along with increased police patrols in the Big Piece Road area.
- The Department of Fish and Game were present earlier today and set several traps in hopes of catching any other coyotes. They were able to identify several dens in the area as well and will be monitoring them over the next several days.
- There still exists a population of coyotes in the area and we cannot be sure that another incident will not occur. Anyone using the park as well as those travelling in the Big Piece Road area should exercise caution and be aware of their surroundings. Try to remain in pairs or groups, carry a charged cell phone, keep dogs on leashes while walking and do anything else you may feel would be necessary to protect your safety.
- The Fairfield Recreational Complex located at 221 Hollywood Avenue will have limited operations.
The following entrances to the park are CLOSED until further notice: Green Meadows Road entrance, Holly Drive entrance, Big Piece Road Entrance. All closed entrances are closed by orange barrels and caution tape. Please do not walk around or remove these items. They are there for your protection.
The following precautions come directly from the NJ Fish and Game website, which can be found at www.fishandgame.com.
- Never feed a coyote. Deliberately feeding coyotes puts pets and other residents in the neighborhood at risk.
- Feeding pet cats and/or feral (wild) cats outdoors can attract coyotes. The coyotes feed on the pet food and also prey upon the cats.
- Put garbage in tightly closed containers that cannot be tipped over.
- Remove sources of water, especially in dry climates.
- Bring pets in at night.
- Put away bird feeders at night to avoid attracting rodents and other coyote prey.
- Provide secure enclosures for rabbits, poultry, and other farm animals.
- Pick up fallen fruit and cover compost piles.
- Although extremely rare, coyotes have been known to attack humans. Parents should monitor their children, even in familiar surroundings, such as backyards.
- Install motion-sensitive lighting around the house.
- Clear brush and dense weeds from around dwellings. This reduces protective cover for coyotes and makes the area less attractive to rodents and rabbits. Coyotes, as well as other predators, are attracted to areas where rodents are concentrated like woodpiles.
- If coyotes are present, make sure they know they're not welcome. Make loud noises, blast a canned air siren, throw rocks, or spray them with a garden hose.
- Coyotes are typically secretive animals not often seen or heard. Yet there are times during the year when they are more visible and more vocal. Although usually nocturnal, coyotes can be seen any time of day, especially during the breeding season from late January into early March. Vocalizations, consisting of howls, yips and barks, also increase at this time.
Any questions can be directed toll free, 24 hours a day to 877-927-6337. If an emergency exists, dial 9-1-1 for the Fairfield police.