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Hopkinton teen escapes scrap with coyote believed to be rabid

Union Leader Correspondent

February 23. 2012 4:01PM
While walking his dog Plunk on Wednesday, Jed Aubertin, 15, of Hopkinton managed to fight off an attack by a coyote that NH Fish and Game officials believe was rabid. (Nancy Bean Foster)

HOPKINTON - The search is on for a coyote officials suspect is rabid after it attacked a teenager walking a dog on Wednesday.

Jed Aubertin, 15, of Hopkinton, was walking with his dog, Plunk, near a dike in the Contoocook River near Elm Brook Park on Wednesday when he noticed a coyote in the woods. Being a kid raised in the outdoors among avid sportsmen, Aubertin said he didn't think anything of it.

'I see them all the time in the woods,' he said. 'It's no big deal.'

But something was different this time, and as Aubertin and Plunk, who is 10 years old, continued their walk, the coyote came after them. Aubertin saw the coyote coming out of the woods and up the road towards them, and said he ordered Plunk to go home.

'I kicked him and told him to go,' said Aubertin, who had a hunch the coyote was going to attack. And it did. The animal repeatedly jumped at the boy's throat.

'I kept punching him in the nose to keep him from getting my throat,' Aubertin said. 'But he kept coming back at me. Finally I was able to hit him hard enough and get away from him.'

Aubertin received some scratches and was possibly bitten though he isn't sure, but he has begun a course of rabies shots just in case.

'The shots hurt worse than the stupid coyote,' said Aubertin, who received six shots on Wednesday in his arms and legs.

Christine Adamski, bureau chief for the NH Health and Human Services Infectious Diseases office, said that exposure to the saliva of an animal that has rabies, even if a person isn't bitten, can spread the disease which causes swelling of the brain, or encephalitis, and is often deadly. The shots Aubertin has, and will continue to receive are both boosters for his immune system and rabies vaccine that must be administered in a series of shots over time.

Aubertin said he thinks the coyote was probably just hungry, but wildlife biologist Patrick Tate with the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department, it's likely the animal was rabid.

'Eastern coyotes tend to run away when they encounter humans,' said Tate. 'The fact that this coyote attacked tells us there's an issue with its brain function.'

Coyotes hanging out in the woods or a field is normal behavior, Tate said, and they generally run off if a human makes a loud noise or throws something at them. But when wild animals approach humans, are overly friendly or overtly aggressive, there's cause for concern.

'Obviously, you never want to approach a wild animal. But if you are in a situation where you are outdoors near a coyote, shout at it, make sure it knows you're a threat,' Tate said. 'If it comes at you, hit it hard on the head and snout.'

Officers from Fish and Game and the Hopkinton Police Department have been searching for the coyote and if the animal is found, it will be put down and sent off for rabies testing, but Tate said it's unlikely that they'll find the animal.

Tate said people in the area should keep their domestic animals indoors or in fenced in areas, and to report any wild animal that acts overly friendly, aggressive, or approaches humans.

But Tate also said the incident shouldn't cause people unnecessary alarm because such attacks on humans by rabid animals are extremely rare.

'It's the first time we know of that a coyote has attacked a person in New Hampshire,' said Tate. 'The risk of being attacked by a domestic dog is much higher'.

The attack won't keep Aubertin and his pal Plunk out of the woods, he said.

'It won't happen again,' he said.

Hopkinton residents who see a coyote behaving aggressively are asked to notify Fish and Game Law Enforcement dispatch at (603) 271-3361.

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