Fourteen year old Eric Mandel doesn't need to worry about facing down tough guys when he starts high school this week.
The pint-sized youth with braces on his teeth just faced down a coyote. "He lunged at me and I slapped him," he explained, describing how he repeatedly hit and chased off the menacing animal that loped into a Rye Brook, New York neighborhood looking for trouble."I didn't want him to bite any of the younger kids,"said Mandel.
"There were a lot of barbecues taking place on Sunday," said Police Chief Gregory Austin, when asked to speculate what drew the coyote out of the woods and onto suburban lawns.
The wild animals generally avoid human interaction, but have become accustomed to finding easy sources of food in suburban locations, just 30-minutes outside Manhattan.
"I've chased them away from my kids playset", commented Rebecca Oling.
An hour after Eric's coyote encounter, a 28-year-old man and his 2-year-old daughter were also attacked by a coyote outside a home about a half-mile away.
No one was seriously hurt, but all received rabies shots as a precaution. "The animal appeared to have mange and we don't know what else," said Chief Austin.
A Rye Brook police officer shot and killed a coyote not far from where the attacks occurred. A DNA match to the victims is pending lab results.
Coyotes have wanderwd down from upstate New York over the last few decades and taken up residence in parts of Westchester County. In June a
A -3 year-old girl and a 6-year-old girl in Rye were also bitten.
Concern over increased sitings and attacks has led to the implemenation of "coyote hazing" programs to trap and remove the animals and keep them from losing their fear of humans. "We still think it's effective," said Austin.