By Mike LaBella
HAVERHILL — Just minutes after 9-year-old Alex Cazmay was attacked by a coyote in a driveway on Pamela Lane, a neighbor saw a coyote ripping through a bag of trash in a back yard and took its photo.
City Animal Control Officer Michelle Hamel said there is no way to determine if it was the same coyote, or whether it was the coyote that attacked a Chihuahua in Methuen on Tuesday morning and carried the little dog off into the woods.
Hamel said she spoke to Methuen's animal control officer yesterday and both of them wondered if the same coyote could have carried out both attacks. "I guess anything is possible. We have a large coyote population in the area," Hamel said. "They do have their own territory, but I'm not sure how large that is."
The sites of the two incidents are roughly four miles apart, both on the same side of the Merrimack River.
Alex, who lives with her parents and a younger brother in Atkinson, was at the Haverhill home of her friend Kelly Igoe, 9, when the attack occurred about 9:15 a.m. Monday.
Alex and Kelly were in the driveway on their scooters — along with Kelly's sister Shayla, 6 — when the coyote walked up to Alex from behind.
The girls started screaming.
"It bit me in the butt and I dropped my scooter," Alex said yesterday while standing in her friend's driveway at the spot where the attack occurred.
As she recounted the attack, she was with her mother, Brianne Cazmay. Also with them were the Igoe sisters and their mother, Kathleen Igoe.
"It also bit me in the arm, but I had the sense to run inside," Alex said. "I thought it was going to follow me into the garage."
The Igoe sisters had already run into the house to tell their mother what was happening. Kathleen Igoe said she looked out the window and saw the coyote standing alone in the driveway, then raced down the basement stairs to get Alex.
"It looked hungry, like it was licking its chops," Kathleen Igoe said.
After Alex was safe inside, Kathleen Igoe and her husband notified police and called Alex's mother, who was at work.
Brianne Cazmay said frightening thoughts filled her mind at that moment, including whether her daughter would need stitches.
She said she was somewhat relieved after the ambulance company contacted her to say they had cleaned her daughter's wounds and, although they were significant, her daughter could wait for her mother to take her to the emergency room.
"At first Alex didn't want to go outside. Even after I came to drive her to the hospital, she did not want to come outside," Brianne Cazmay said. "She asked me to carry her. She did not want to walk."
Alex told her mother that when the coyote attacked her, she thought it was a dog, so she reached out her left arm to let the animal sniff her, but it began biting her arms.
"Because of her winter coat, it did not bite through to her skin," Brianne Cazmay said. "Alex was extremely lucky. It could have been a lot worse. I could have lost my child."
Alex was able to get away from the animal, then run into the house, entering through a door inside the garage that leads to the basement.
Hamel, Haverhill's animal control officer, said that in her eight years on the job, she has never heard of a coyote attacking a human.
"It's not uncommon for a coyote to go after another dog or a cat or a rabbit," she said. "They are everywhere in the city and they are very opportunistic."
Since the 1950s, there have been just four confirmed attacks in Massachusetts, state wildlife officials said.
"You are more likely to be bit by your neighbor's dog than a coyote," said Laura Conlee of the Massachusetts Division of Fish and Wildlife. "And of the four confirmed attacks, two of those were rabid animals and one was suspected of having rabies."
She added it is very rare for coyotes to have rabies.
Valerie Potter, who lives near Pamela Lane, said a coyote estimated to weigh 70 pounds may be living in that area. She sent Hamel a photo that her daughter took on Monday of a coyote that opened a locked trash container in her back yard and removed a bag of trash. Potter said the coyote appeared to be well fed and that neighborhood cats have disappeared, as well as wild turkeys that once visited a few times a day.
A coyote is believed responsible for attacking a pet Chihuahua in Methuen on Tuesday morning and carrying it off into the woods.
Karen Serafino of 96 Baltic St. told police her family's 10-year-old long-haired Chihuahua, a male named Cookie, was let out of the home into the front yard around 8 a.m. She said a coyote attacked the dog in the front yard before running off with him into the back of the property.
Methuen police and animal control were contacted by the Serafinos shortly after the attack. Officers searched the woods for the dog, but could not find it.
State wildlife officials said in an area such as Methuen or Haverhill, coyotes can travel anywhere from 10 to 15 miles per day within their family's territory, which can encompass 6 to 10 square miles in this part of the state.
Victim fears being alone outside
Brianne Cazmay brought her daughter to Lawrence General Hospital, where they were joined by her husband, Jonathan Biros, and their son Brodie, 4.
She said doctors gave her daughter two rabies immunoglobulin injections into and around the area of her worst wound, as well as a tetanus shot.
When asked what hurt more, the coyote bites or the injections, Alex said there was no comparison.
"The needles I got from the doctors hurt more," Alex said. "You could hear me screaming from China."
Brianne Cazmay said her daughter must have three more rabies vaccine shots and that she is also taking antibiotics.
While waiting in the hospital emergency room, Brianne Cazmay showed her daughter images of coyotes on her iPhone.
"That's exactly what bit me," Alex told her mother.
Alex, a third grader at Atkinson Academy, went to school on Tuesday, the day after the attack.
"The guidance counselor told her they would keep her safe and that a coyote would not want to come near a big group of screaming third-graders," Brianne Cazmay said.
She said a few of her daughter's classmates didn't believe she'd been attacked by a coyote, but they didn't tease her about it.
"She bounced back quickly and is doing great, but at our home she still does not want to go outside on her own," her mother said.
Kathleen Igoe said her husband went outside just after the coyote had attacked Alex and saw the animal walking through their back yard toward a wooded area.
She said police told her the coyote was probably walking from one wooded area to another when it noticed the children playing in her driveway.
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