A 2-year-old girl was recovering Tuesday after being bitten and nearly dragged away by a coyote at a Cypress cemetery.
The attack happened while the toddler was on a visit with her family at Forest Lawn Memorial Park at 4471 Lincoln Ave. about 3:15 p.m. July 18, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife said.
The girl was with her mother when the animal bit her twice, as shown in the photo below, and tried to drag her away before her mother intervened.
"The image of her being dragged over headstones, helplessly grabbing the ground – all I knew is, I had to get her. I had to save her. I didn’t want her to be taken into the bushes," mother Michelle Luper said.
Luper described a tug-of-war between she and the wild animal.
"When I screamed, the coyote let go and started growing at me, so I just grabbed her and tried to put distance between us," Luper said.
Clarissa was taken to the hospital, where she was treated for rabies. She has two rabies treatments left to undergo.
"If there was not someone there to rescue this girl, the coyote may have succeeded in dragging her off," said Mark Michilizzi, a Fish and Wildlife warden.
Michilizzi said coyote attacks on people are rare, but they when happen "it's a serious issue."
Fish and Wildlife officers killed three coyotes near where the attack took place, hoping to warn any other coyotes roaming the property.
"Even if we're not getting the right one, they're very smart animals," Assistant Chief Dan Sforza, with Fish and Wildlife said.
"Once we're out there and we're taking one out of the pack, they aren't a problem anymore. They're quick learners."
It was believed that one of the three coyotes killed was the one that attacked the girl. Michilizzi said the clothes the girl was wearing were collected to see if DNA matches a sample that will be taken from the coyotes.
The coyotes tested negative for rabies.
The cemetery has since put up signs warning about coyotes in the area and set up traps throughout the sprawling 100-acre memorial park. Still, officials say it's difficult to corral wild animals searching for food and natural habitat.
Credit for 2010 file photo below: Getty Images.
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