FAIRFIELD, NJ — Nearly two weeks after a Fairfield resident and her child were attacked by a coyote at the Hollywood Avenue recreation center, Fairfield Township Administrator Joseph Catenaro has announced that no other coyotes have been caught in the traps placed throughout certain wooden areas of the township.
According to Catenaro, police still believe that the coyote shot and killed by Sgt. Frank Tracey on the night of the attack was the same coyote that bit the mother and child.
The coyote’s carcass had been taken in for rabies testing, but Catenaro confirmed on Monday that due to a gunshot wound to the head, there is not enough healthy brain tissue to perform the test. Both mother and child immediately received the initial series of shots needed to prevent rabies and other possible infections and will continue treatment.
Catenaro noted that there are more than 2,000 acres of undeveloped land between the municipalities of Montville and Fairfield for the coyotes to live. Since coyotes are high on the food chain in the area, they can continue to survive and breed unless the population is thinned out, he added.
After hearing from Mayor James Gasparini about the higher-than-usual amount of rainfall that has caused flooding in the wooded areas, Catenaro suggested that this could be causing a shortage of space for coyote dens. He said it is possible the coyotes are seeking higher ground to protect and provide for their young, but that it is unusual for a coyote to attack a human.
After more than a week, all entrances to the park have been reopened to the public with “beware of coyotes” signs posted along the trail along with information on what visitors should do if they encounter one.
“Protocols are in place for the protection of everyone,” said Catenaro.
Fairfield Police Chief Anthony Manna was not on hand at the meeting to address these updates, but has previously stated that police and recreation staff will be on the lookout for any danger to the children participating in the park’s summer camp.
"There will be police patrolling the park throughout the weekend to hopefully return stability and normalcy to the area," Manna said after the attack. "We have to continue to live and interact with the animals but of course have to be diligent when they come into our area and are aggressive like in this case."
Manna cautioned residents at the time 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 a statement at the time assuring residents of the work being done to ensure the safety of the community. As part of the statement, the police deparmtnet noted that "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," the department stated. "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."
A group of West Essex High School freshmen who regularly walk through the park said that they were nervous to return during the first couple of days after the coyote attack, but have since felt more confident knowing that the police are handling the situation.
The department also shared the following precautions directly from the New Jersey Department 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.