Robin Totman thought she was in for a typical evening as she pulled into her driveway on Highland Street in Stoughton, Massachusetts on October 3, 2023. The area is known for its rural charm, but what happened next was anything but charming. Just as she was preparing to step out of her car, an aggressive coyote made a startling appearance, lunging toward her vehicle.
“It was a terrifying experience,” said Totman. “There was something extremely off about the animal’s behavior. I’m not a wildlife expert, but it displayed signs that led me to suspect it might have been rabid.”
Faced with this unexpected threat, Robin tried to employ her car’s horn as a deterrent. “I tried to hurry up and put the window up. And the it just kept running back and forth. It ran to the door; it ran to the car; it scratched back up again.”
For a nerve-wracking 15 minutes, Robin remained stuck in her car while the coyote prowled menacingly back and forth. She frantically rolled up her windows, but the animal seemed intent on attacking. It darted to the car door, then back across the driveway. She had no other option but to call her husband and let him know she was effectively trapped.
Dave Wattles, a black bear and furbearer biologist for the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife, weighed in on the incident. “We’ve seen an increase in rabid coyote incidents in the past year or so,” he said. “That kind of real aggression where it is kind of, it’s going after, you know – whether it’s her, the car, it’s difficult to say – but with real fervor and aggression. That’s an indication that that was a rabid animal.”
Fortunately, the ordeal came to an end when the coyote got distracted by deer and turkey in a neighbor’s yard, eventually chasing them into the woods. “It was scary. I mean, I didn’t know what to do. That was the main thing. I never encountered anything like that before,” Totman stated.
Safety Tips for Encountering Coyotes
If you ever find yourself face-to-face with a coyote or other aggressive wildlife, your safety hinges on being prepared and knowledgeable. Below is an expanded list of crucial safety measures to keep in mind:
Make Noise to Intimidate the Coyote: Usually, one of the most effective ways to deter a coyote is by making loud and intimidating noises. Whether it’s honking your car’s horn, yelling, or banging pots and pans together, the louder you are, the more likely the animal will be scared away. Carrying a whistle or an air horn can be a compact and effective solution when you’re on foot.
Never Feed the Animals: This point cannot be overstated. Feeding a coyote does more harm than good, putting you and others at risk. When coyotes associate humans with food, they become more bold and less fearful, which can lead to dangerous encounters. Always keep a safe distance and encourage others to do the same.
Secure All Food Sources Around Your Property: Coyotes have a keen sense of smell and can be attracted to unsecured garbage bins, compost heaps, or pet food left outside. Make sure your trash cans are tightly sealed and stored in a place that’s inaccessible to wildlife. If you have outdoor pets, bring their food inside at night.
Keep Pets Inside, Especially During Nighttime: Small animals like cats and dogs can attract the attention of coyotes. It’s advisable to keep your pets indoors, especially during the evening when coyotes are most active. If that’s not possible, supervise your pets closely when they’re outside.
Equip Yourself with Pepper Spray: While physical confrontation with a coyote should be a last resort, having a canister of canine pepper spray, bear spray, or even an electronic dog repeller can give you a fighting chance if it comes down to it. These sprays serves as a non-lethal but highly effective deterrent against aggressive animals. It’s compact enough to fit in a purse or backpack, so you can always have it handy.
Contact Authorities for Aggressive Behavior: If you encounter a coyote that seems sick, unusually aggressive, or unafraid of humans, it’s crucial to report it to local animal control or wildlife services immediately. Prompt action can prevent future encounters and potentially dangerous situations.
By arming yourself with these critical safety measures, you not only protect yourself but also contribute to the broader community’s well-being. Awareness and preparation are your best defenses against the unexpected.
By adhering to these safety precautions, you can reduce the risk associated with coyote encounters and potentially prevent a harrowing ordeal like Robin Totman’s.
As always, be safe and be prepared.
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