A toddler was seriously injured in a coyote attack on the sand north of the Huntington Beach pier on Thursday evening April 28, authorities said.
The girl was with her mother when the attack happened around 9:45 p.m., said Jennifer Carey, a spokeswoman for Huntington Beach. The girl was hospitalized with non-life-threatening injuries.
Later that night, officers found and shot two coyotes, killing one near Pacific Coast Highway and Goldenwest Avenue, Lt. Thoby Archer said. Officers do not believe the coyote was responsible for the attack.
The second coyote who was on the beach, shot and wounded, fled from the officers and disappeared near the swamps.
“We weren’t able to shoot it again, due to background issues,” Archer said. “We’re pretty sure we hurt him pretty good.”
This coyote was found under a trailer at a trailer park by California Department of Fish and Wildlife and Orange County Animal Control officers on Friday night and euthanized, police said.
“The carcass will be sent to a lab in Sacramento where wildlife forensic scientists will work on it on Saturday and attempt to compare DNA samples from either carcass to those from the bite samples of the victim,” police said in a statement. Press release.
“Both will also be tested for rabies, which is done post-mortem, which usually takes a few additional days,” the statement said.
More information about the girl was not released by the police.
In video from a Surfline.com camera that shows the attack, a woman holds the toddler and takes selfies, with another person and a child just yards north of the Huntington Beach pier.
The toddler at one point slips a few steps behind the woman. The coyote stops right in front of her for a moment before jumping on it and attacking the toddler.
The woman is unaware of the attack, facing the other direction towards the ocean. The attack lasts more than 10 seconds. The woman walks towards the toddler, the coyote running away.
They walk a few steps before the woman bends down to check on the toddler, just as passers-by approach as the coyote comes back close.
She holds the toddler in her arms as they walk away with the other person and the child and bystanders, one running across the sand and out of view of the camera.
The coyote returns a third time, searching the area near the shore as another pair approaches, seemingly also oblivious to its presence.
Andy Verdone, surf coach at Huntington Beach High School, said in his decades of training on the sand in the area, he had never heard of coyotes on the beach.
“I have never, ever, ever seen a coyote on or near the beach,” he said. “I was purely shocked. I hope the little girl is okay.
But others, local surfers, have noticed the increased presence of coyotes recently on the sand.
“For the past few weeks we have seen a coyote roaming the beach from the pier to Goldenwest,” said Huntington Beach surfer Louis Rice.
“Locals were very concerned about this and had expressed concern and fear of an attack on a human, so it was terrifying but not surprising,” he said.
Coyote sightings in the city are common, Lt. Archer said, because the city has a large park and wetlands, with coyote sightings on the beach increasing recently.
He warned residents to be aware of their surroundings when hanging out at the beach.
“It was a unique circumstance where someone was attacked,” Archer said. “They are wild animals and they can be unpredictable, like sharks and stingrays in the water.”
While experts say attacks on humans are rare, there have been other recent attacks in Orange County. In 2018, a 3-year-old child was attacked in Placentia and a 91-year-old man was bitten in 2020 in Laguna Beach.
A report on Southern California coyote attacks from 2012 to 2016 by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife identified 50 cases where people were bitten.
Eric Strauss, president’s professor of biology at Loyola Marymount University and director of LMU’s Center for Urban Resilience, said coyote populations are increasing.
As the pandemic unfolded and people frequented public places less, coyotes were seen in more places, even in broad daylight, he noted.
“Cities are rich in food resources for wildlife, so continued drought is likely to alter the menu and alter their food choices,” he said in an email.
It’s not unusual for coyotes to feed on public beaches, as the sand is often filled with natural food resources along the surfline and what people left behind after picnics, said Strauss.
“It was relatively late at night, when coyotes are typically very active in urban habitats — especially if the beach was otherwise uncrowded,” he said of the Huntington Beach attack.
The professor wasn’t surprised that the woman apparently didn’t notice the struggle nearby.
“The beaches are noisy with surf and wind noise, so it would be easy for a human not to hear coyote activity, or even a struggle,” he said.
He would not comment on the nature of the attack or the motivation of the coyote, as information on this incident is still incomplete.
Experts say coyotes are typically seen more frequently venturing into urban areas in search of food, water and shelter in the spring, putting pets and sometimes people at increased risk. of attack.
Huntington Beach police have asked anyone who sees a coyote in their town to call them at 714-960-8811.
Journalist Quinn Wilson contributed to this report.