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DNA Links California Coyote To Attacked Toddler

June 2, 2008

A coyote that attacked a toddler in Lake Arrowhead May 6 is no longer a threat to the community. The California Department of Fish and Game (DFG) announced today that conclusive DNA evidence proves that the coyote shot by a DFG game warden on May 8 was the one responsible for attacking the child two days earlier.

“By matching the DNA from the coyote carcass with the DNA found in the coyote saliva on the victim’s clothing, we and our collaborating lab at UCLA were able to confirm the DNA match,” said Jeff Rodzen, Ph.D., Senior Wildlife Forensic Specialist with the DFG Wildlife Forensic Laboratory.

The finding provides closure to fears that the coyote that attacked the 18-month-old child could still be at large. The child was airlifted to Loma Linda University Hospital for treatment of puncture wounds to the head and neck area. The wounds were not life threatening. She is recovering from the wounds.

On May 6, Lieutenant Mike Stefanak met with the parents of the child and secured their permission to collect DNA material from the victim’s clothing in hopes it would contain saliva from the coyote. Stefanak collected samples and possible evidence from the attack and shipped it to the DFG Wildlife Forensic Laboratory in Rancho Cordova, Calif.

The night of May 8, DFG Warden Brady Hill shot a coyote three blocks from the site of the attack in Lake Arrowhead. The coyote matched the family’s description of the one that grabbed their child by the head and tried to drag her off. DFG wardens and U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Wildlife Services agents spent three nights tracking, setting traps and attempting to take the coyote suspected of the attack.

DNA from the muscle and skin cell tissues of the coyote were then matched conclusively with cells contained in the saliva from the bite area on the clothing.

Assistant Chief of Enforcement Mike McBride said, “This finding reinforces the importance of thorough investigative work and DFG’s policy of the selective removal of animals. DFG is very appreciative of the work done over the years by USDA Wild Services (WS) colleagues. The combined expertise of DFG and WS personnel is key to successfully protecting our constituents in public safety situations.”


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