There’s extensive coverage today of the reported attack on a toddler by a coyote in the Chapel Hill section of Middletown Friday night.

So far, just what it was that tried to drag the boy off and left him with scratches is a matter of surmise, at least according to the Asbury Park Press.

The Press account refers to “an animal, believed to be one of two or three coyotes that emerged from the woods.” The attack, the report says, was “probably the first coyote attack on a child in state history.”

From the Press:

And while officials have not yet received independent confirmation, because of Friday’s attack, and based on the description and behavior of the animals, it appears coyotes are roaming in the neighborhood near Normandy Road, the private thoroughfare that connects the main base of the Earle Naval Weapons Station with the weapons station’s pier on Sandy Hook Bay, Township Administrator Robert Czech said.

“They didn’t think they were dealing with a pattern, or series of incidents that related to a pack of coyotes, until we put pieces together (after) Friday evening,” he said.

The other cases include four puppies that were killed and a pet cat that was attacked, he said.

The Star-Ledger, though, is more definitive about the animal:

A 22-month-old toddler, playing with family members in the backyard of a Monmouth County home, became the first confirmed victim of a coyote attack on a human when the animal bit him on the head and neck and then tried to drag the youngster out of the yard.

The Ledger also has this backgrounder:

Coyotes are not native to New Jersey, but several thousand now prowl the state.

They slowly migrated to the East from the Southwest, and biologists believe the creatures mated with wolves along the way. What emerged on the East Coast and in New Jersey by the 1950s was a larger, more colorful and wily hybrid, some weighing as much as 60 pounds.

They have been sighted in all 21 New Jersey counties.

“They are largely nocturnal,” said Herrighty. “However, this time of the year, as they start to have their young and need to feed them, we will begin to get reports of them being out in the middle of the day because they have to forage extra hard.”

Pets and livestock typically fall prey to coyotes, and Robert Czech, Middletown’s municipal administrator, said police recently fielded reports of dogs and cats being killed.

“Until Saturday, I didn’t realize we had coyotes in Middletown,” said Czech. “But clearly they are here.”

Last month, redbankgreen, in an occasional feature we call “News from other Red Banks,” linked to a story fom Red Bank, Tenn., about an apparent proliferation of coyote dens.

In that story, an employee from the Tennessee Wildlife Authority said that while “anything can happen in the wild… I’d say it’s highly unlikely for one to attack a human just due to the fact that their food habits are small mammals and rodents.”

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