Rise in Coyote Attacks on Children: Drought Possibly to Blame, Southern California Official Says

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"They do get more aggressive when they're in search of food and water," a California Department of Fish and Wildlife tells The Hollywood Reporter.

Animal control officers have been seeing a rise in coyote attacks on children in the Southern California regions, and the ongoing drought may be a factor, according to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.

CDFW officer Jackie Mackey tells The Hollywood Reporter that the emergence of coyote sightings may be due to a combination of things, including pupping season (which generally extends from March to August), new food sources, urban encroachment and the existing drought in the state of California.

"The lack of water could have an impact [though not scientifically proven]," Mackey says. "They do get more aggressive when they're in search of food and water."

CBS Los Angeles reported that four incidents have occurred in Irvine within the past month in which children have sustained minor injuries from coyotes bites or scratches.

The first reported attack happened in Silverado Park on May 22, when a three-year-old was bitten on the back of the neck while taking a walk with her parents. Coyotes have harmed children in the safety of their own homes according to other accounts, one of which involved a seven-year-old girl getting scratched from a coyote that entered the family's house.

In light of the incidents in Irvine, the CDFW released a statement urging residents to be "particularly vigilant in watching their children and pets when outdoors."

Captain Rebecca Hartman of the CDFW's Law Enforcement Division also said in a statement, "These incidents highlight the importance of communities working together to eliminate sources of food that may attract wildlife to neighborhoods. When coyotes are fed, either intentionally or unintentionally by food being left out, they can become a public safety threat."

Wildlife trappers have been stationed in Irvine to euthanize coyotes in the area that may pose a threat to residents. Nine coyotes have been caught to date.

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