Coyote sightings uncommon in Arlington park where children were bitten, animal control officials say

dfwnewsa | February 15, 2024 | 0 | Fort Worth , Fort Worth News

Coyote sightings uncommon in Arlington park where children were bitten, animal control officials say

A sign warns people near Jones Academy of Fine Arts and Dual Language, outside Parkway Central Park in North Arlington, after a coyote bit three children in February 2024. (Kailey Broussard |
KERA)
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Arlington’s Parkway Central Park did not appear to be an issue before a coyote bit three children over the past week, according to Ashley Woolnough, animal services manager.

Woolnough said the city has received only two reports about coyote sightings for the park since 2021, which is nestled near Jones Academy of Fine Arts and Dual Language, homes and apartments.

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“We didn’t anticipate that this was a blooming problem,” Woolnough said. “This wasn’t something that was flagged for us as a situation.”

Sightings in Arlington are common, and the creatures can be found widely across the U.S.

A review of AskArlington app data from 2023 shows the city received 68 wildlife sighting reports that contain the phrase “coyote.” But attacks are rare – usually because a coyote has lost its fear of humans, has rabies or is protecting its young.

The city has never before had reports of coyote bites, Woolnough said.

City officials will evaluate their approach to dealing with wildlife after the reported bitings. Woolnough said protocols change with animal behavior.

“We have our basic protocols but we’re dealing with animals, so every situation is a little bit different. We are working on adapting our current protocols to reflect best practices for further endeavors,” she said.

The city and the U.S. Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Wildlife Services staff will assess the number of coyotes in the pack near the park and reduce, not eliminate, the population.

Arlington police and animal control captured a coyote suspected to have bitten three children Thursday, Feb. 15, 2024, near Parkway Central Park. (City Of Arlington | Twitter)

Woolnough said the agencies are focused on reduction because wildlife is not going anywhere. Arlington Animal Services’ approach to wildlife is to balance the natural environment with that of the urban.

“We have to approach it as wildlife is going to be in the area and when you remove wildlife, more wildlife comes in,” Woolnough said.

Tanya Espinosa, USDA spokesperson, said the agency “will assess the situation and remove additional coyotes if needed,” but did not answer specific questions about the process other than their goal is to neither remove a pack nor thin it out.

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“Our mission is to educate people on ways to ensure animals, including coyotes, do not become habituated to people,” she wrote in an emailed statement.

Woolnough says there’s no timeline for the joint investigation with the USDA.

Arlington has a web page for reporting wildlife activity, and residents can report sightings through the AskArlington mobile app. Animal services sets traps around town in areas with high sightings for animals such as coyotes as well as bobcats and feral hogs.

The park at 600 Van Buren Dr. will remain closed until further notice, according to a city press release.

Camera crews and passersby lingered outside the park entrance Thursday afternoon.

Moon Taylor, who owns the nonprofit Spiritual Wildlife Rescue and Rehabilitation Sanctuary, parked outside the property Thursday afternoon in hopes of finding coyotes or pups that her organization could capture and bring to their sanctuary.

“Just leave wildlife alone,” she said. “It’s their land.”

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The coyote captured Thursday morning will be humanely euthanized and tested for rabies by Texas Health and Human Services in Austin.

Got a tip? Email Kailey Broussard at kbroussard@kera.org.

KERA News is made possible through the generosity of our members. If you find this reporting valuable, consider making a tax-deductible gift today. Thank you.

The city said three children were bitten on the playground or in the parking lot at Parkway Central Park between Saturday and Tuesday. They were treated for injuries and “will all receive post-exposure rabies treatment.”

The park will remain closed until further notice. The city is partnering with the USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Wildlife Services to determine how many coyotes are in the park and reduce the population to change pack behavior.

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