Recently, there has been an influx in the number of coyote sightings in residential areas throughout the state. Like any wild animal, coyotes living in urban settings pose a public safety risk as they can grow accustomed to humans and lose their natural instinct to distance themselves. Coyotes' natural diet consists of small animals like rabbits, mice, rats, birds, small deer, and young sheep and goats, making them a danger to pets as well.
"Coyotes are known to carry and transmit rabies. Even after a coyote is dead, exposure to its brain, spinal matter, saliva or other tissue can lead to rabies transmission," said State Public Health Veterinarian Gary A. Balsamo, DVM, MPH&TM. "Therefore, residents should avoid all contact. If contact is made with a coyote, dead or alive, the animal must be tested for rabies and the exposed humans may be required to start on post-exposure prophylaxis medication."
To ensure their safety, residents are encourage to take the following precautions:
- Children and small pets should never be left outside unattended.
- Coyotes often inhabit suburban or urban areas due to availability of left-out pet foods, unsecured garbage and the rodents these attract. Garbage should be secured in tightly sealed containers that cannot be tipped over.
- If a coyote begins to follow a person or a pet, make very loud noises. If the coyote persists, throw rocks or sticks in its direction.
- Never attempt to feed or make pets of coyotes.
- Coyote sightings should be reported to local animal control districts.
- If a coyote acts aggressively or attacks a person, call 911.
- Anyone bitten or scratched by a coyote (or any other wild animal) should consult with a physician immediately regarding treatment of any wound(s) and risk of rabies transmission.
- The owner of any pet bitten or scratched by a coyote (or any wild animal) should consult with a veterinarian immediately regarding treatment of any injuries and risk of exposure to rabies.
- Animal control personnel that regularly come in contact with coyotes or any other wild animal should be vaccinated against rabies.
- Any person coming across a sick, injured or deceased coyote should avoid contact with the animal or any of the animal's tissues or bodily fluids.
The Louisiana Department of Health strives to protect and promote health statewide and to ensure access to medical, preventive and rehabilitative services for all state citizens. To learn more about LDH, visit http://www.dhh.louisiana.gov. For up-to-date health information, news and emergency updates, follow LDH's blog, Twitter account and Facebook.