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Students report coyote attacks near Ridgewood

On January 14, 2013

Early on Wednesday, Dec. 12, at around 2 a.m., at least two students reported having been bitten by a coyote on lower campus, near Ziv and Ridgewood Quads. One student's skin was punctured and she underwent treatment for several weeks after. The other was not hurt.

Marcie Lieberman '13 said she was bit behind Ziv, and realized later that the bite had gone through her skin.

"I was walking behind Ziv, when it came up behind me and bit my leg," said Lieberman in an interview with the Justice.

She said it followed her when she tried to get away, biting the bottom of her long coat, until she managed to get inside the lobby of Ziv 129, where her friend called campus police and reported the incident.

"I turned around and walked away, but I didn't run, because I know not to do that. And I yelled at it; I tried that," she said.

When she realized her skin had been punctured, she went to the Health Center at the urging of her friend. The Health Center referred her to the emergency room to get rabies and tetanus shots.

She received eight shots, and had to go back to get more every three days.

The other student bitten, Justice News Editor Tate Herbert '15, was unharmed as her thick boots prevented the coyote from reaching her skin.

Students' descriptions of the coyote matched that of an animal in stage two of dying from rabies, wrote Prof. Eric Olson (Heller) in an email to the Justice.

According to the Humane Society's website, rabid animals might "bite or snap at imaginary and real objects, and drool excessively," resulting in the most recognizable symptom of foaming at the mouth. Or, wild animals may "appear tame and seem to have no fear of humans."  Other signs include walking in circles or in a wobbly manner and acting disoriented or paralyzed.

According to Director of Public Safety Ed Callahan, Brandeis Police received a call at around 2 a.m., and responded to a student between Ziv Quad and the Shapiro Campus Center whose leg had been bitten and scratched by an animal that was believed to be a coyote. The animal had torn the student's coat, as well.

An off-duty member of the Brandeis Emergency Medical Corps happened to be nearby and helped the student, said Callahan.

While it seems to have lost its fear of humans, Callahan advised that the worst thing for students to do is to act scared of the coyote. Instead, if anyone encounters the coyote, they should "move assuredly to their destination" and make loud noises to scare it away.

Callahan said that since a public safety advisory regarding the attack was sent out last month, he has received multiple emails from students who heard or saw coyotes on campus in the recent past. Sightings were reported behind Gosman Sports and Convocation Center and in the woods near the International Business School.

The City of Waltham posted an update regarding the situation on their animal control website. Massachusetts "Wildlife and the Environmental Police are aware of the situation. It is believed someone is feeding the animal," read the update.

"This has led to it approaching people and grabbing at legs and feet in an attempt to get people to feed it, causing minor abrasions to one Brandeis student. Had the intent been to attack, any injuries would have been quite severe, so people should not fear that a coyote is going around attacking people, however this is still not acceptable behavior and the public safety is our utmost concern."

Brandeis Police are working with the City of Waltham Animal Control department to monitor the situation.

-Tate Herbert contributed reporting. 

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