It was quiet as Elgin Pritchard strolled out into his back yard at dusk, ready to grill his dinner steak.
Just then, he recalled Tuesday, Pritchard noticed that a ground light needed adjusting. He set down his plate on the side of the grill and bent over to fix it. Suddenly, a sharp pain in his leg paralyzed him momentarily.
A coyote had sneaked up behind him and bitten him.
"When I turned around, I saw the animal, just standing there," the Green Valley resident said of the Saturday attack that left six puncture wounds in his right calf. "I had to shout several times, and then it jumped over the wall and went away."
Pritchard, 85, and three others who live on the south side of the retirement community south of Tucson have suffered coyote bites recently. Wildlife specialists were still hunting for the coyote or coyotes involved.
"They think it's just one coyote," said Elissa Ostergaad of the Arizona Game and Fish Department, adding that evidence in the area, including scrap bones, shows that some residents feed wild animals. That, she said, causes them to lose fear of people. If captured, Ostergaad said, the attacking coyote will have to be killed because of the risk of rabies.
Pritchard's unexpected encounter with the coyote left him bleeding and his wife, Ronnie, concerned about rabies. But Pritchard said the coyote showed no such symptoms.
"It wasn't frothing at the mouth, and it wasn't growling or snarling," he said. "It looked like a big dog."
The paramedics who came to his house cleaned and bandaged his wounds, then his wife drove him to St. Mary's Hospital in Tucson for preventive rabies treatment.
The attack has not slowed down Pritchard, who has lived near the San Ignacio Golf Club for three years. On Tuesday, he was back on the golf course. He has spotted coyotes, rabbits and an occasional bobcat while on the course, Pritchard said, but never in his back yard.
He seems to be taking the incident in stride. "Now we've got something to talk around here," Pritchard said. "Everybody's excited; it's the talk of the neighborhood."
His wife shot back: "Some people are scared."
Karen Stroh, who lives a few houses away, also came face-to-face with a coyote that bit her Friday night at a friend's house. Another coyote — or maybe the same one, she speculated — came into her yard the following day.
Stroh, 58, admits to feeling uneasy knowing that the coyote that left more than a half-dozen puncture wounds on her left calf may still roam her area.
Stroh and her husband, Gordon, were at a neighbor's house, sitting out on a deck.
She said her husband called out that there was a coyote behind her, and next thing she knew, it sank its s teeth into her calf. The bite didn't hurt as much as it scared her, she said. "I bonked it with my open hand, but he just stood there," Stroh said. "Then it just sauntered away."
The next day, after sundown, a coyote came into Stroh's back yard but fled when her husband grabbed a chair and shooed it away. "I let out a scream like you wouldn't believe," Stroh recalled. Like Pritchard, she also received anti-rabies treatment.
Stroh is being cautious. She makes sure her cat, Bruce, stays inside. But she has no plans to stop using her back yard.
● Make yourself look as large as you can.
● Speak in loud and low tones.
● Pick up young children without bending down (pull them up by the arms).
● Back away slowly without turning around.
● Continue watching the animal. If it's a dog, don't look it in the eyes.
● If attacked, fight back.
● You are allowed to shoot an animal only to protect yourself or others.
● Don't leave pet food outside.
● Take pets inside the house overnight, unless they are in a kennel.
● If a wild animal comes onto your property, go inside the house and wait for it to leave.
● If the animal does not leave, you can call the Game and Fish Department at 628-5376. After hours and in an emergency, call 911.
● The Game and Fish Department does not respond to incidents involving snakes, scorpions or spiders.
Source: Arizona Game and Fish Department