Old Lyme coyote attack raises rabies concerns
Old Lyme - Seamus Plyler was mowing the lawn at his house on Tantummaheag Road Sunday morning when a coyote the size of a large German shepherd attacked him.
"I saw it wandering around the field where I was mowing," Plyler, 22, said Tuesday. He didn't think much of it, he added, as foxes wander there frequently.
"It got closer, and I just kept on mowing, and it snuck up behind me and when I turned around, it was right there, and that's when it pounced on me," Plyler said. "It was like an all-out battle for like a minute and a half, two minutes."
The coyote clung to his shirt and arms, Plyler said. "He was intent on killing me," he added.
Plyler had no time to grow alarmed. He fought back, kicking and hitting the animal where he could. Eventually, he was able to get the coyote off him, and it ran back into the woods, he said.
"It happened so fast, you don't really have time to think, 'Oh my God, this thing's attacking me,'" Plyler said.
State Department of Environmental Protection officials, state police and local police searched the area Sunday for signs of a coyote but were unable to find the animal, DEP spokesman Dennis Schain said Tuesday. But because coyotes don't normally attack people, the DEP is concerned the animal may have rabies, he said.
"There's coyotes virtually everywhere in the state, and they often are living in close proximity with people, but they don't usually approach people and they're scared off easily," Schain said.
Plyler said he got his first set of rabies shots Sunday; he's due back for nine more.
Schain said that in his six years at DEP there has been only one other case in Connecticut of a coyote attacking people. In October 2006, two Washington residents reported having been attacked by a coyote. One of them, a woodsman, killed the coyote with a peavey, a logging tool with a metal spike at one end, Schain said.
That coyote was later found to have had rabies.
In 1992 there were 838 reports of rabid animals, the highest reported number in Connecticut's history, according to the state Department of Public Health. Bats, raccoons, skunks and foxes most commonly carry the disease, according to the DPH.
This is at least the second report of a wild-animal attack on a human in as many months in Old Lyme. In March, a rabid red fox in the White Sand Beach area attacked a woman inside a house under construction on New Britain Road. The woman, Valerie Nye, was not bitten but got rabies shots as a precaution.
The fox was beaten to death with a piece of crown molding by a friend.
Visit www.theday.com for 2010 rabies statistics by town and county.
Rabies tested positive in the region (Jan. 1 to Sept. 20, 2010)
Canterbury 2 (1 raccoon; 1 skunk)
East Lyme 1 (bat)
Lyme 1 (raccoon)
Montville 1 (raccoon)
New London 3 (skunk)
North Stonington 0
Norwich 1 (skunk)
Old Lyme 0
Old Saybrook 0
Plainfield 3 (2 raccoons; 1 skunk)
Waterford 1 (skunk)
State 112 (15 bats; 1 bobcat; 1 cat; 3 cows; 1 coyote; 1 dog; 3 foxes; 1 groundhog; 1 horse; 62 raccoons; 23 skunks)
Source: Connecticut Department of Public Health