Boy Scout bitten by coyote while camping at California state


Mar 11, 2001
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May 29, 2002

ANZA-BORREGO DESERT STATE PARK – A young coyote bit a 12-year-old Boy Scout as he and his troop slept at their campsite. The boy was not seriously injured, but as a precaution will receive a series of rabies shots.

Coyotes rarely bite people and are not normally aggressive unless their behavior has been altered through human contact. Park officials say the extremely dry weather may be causing the animals to venture closer to campgrounds and lose their fear of humans.

The coyote's unusual behavior has prompted state Fish and Game officials to order that coyotes matching the description of the one that bit the boy be captured and tested for rabies.

Using baits and calls to attract coyotes, state and federal officials have identified four that match the description. One coyote has been trapped and killed, said Mathew Fuzie, deputy district superintendent of the state's Colorado Desert District. Rabies tests have not been completed.

The boy, Adam Gnessin of Mission Viejo, was sleeping Monday morning on top of his sleeping bag next to his younger brother and another boy in the Borrego Palm Canyon campground. About 2 a.m., he awoke to the coyote biting his scalp, park Ranger Jeri Zemon said.

The coyote bit Adam's right finger and then his sleeping bag, dragging the bag off as Adam went to wake his parents.

Adam's father, Kurt Gnessin, chased the coyote, which dropped the sleeping bag and ran off. The same coyote had approached another boy twice before biting Adam. The other boy, one of those sleeping next to Adam, threw sand at it and yelled to scare it away.

Adam was treated at the campsite by medics. The boy's parents took him to San Diego for a tetanus shot and the first in a series of rabies shots, Zemon said.

Adam's mother, Keri, said the experience would not stop the family from camping. But Adam "is not going to run out and spend the night under the stars without a tent," she said.

Rangers are reminding park visitors of the dangers of feeding animals and likely will be posting signs with a common saying among park officials here: "A fed coyote is a dead coyote."

"We do have signs up that say 'Don't feed the animals,' but they're not the attention-grabber that apparently we need," Fuzie said.

Zemon said Adam, his family and the other Boy Scouts had not been feeding coyotes. "They had their food properly stored," Zemon said. "They were competent campers."

But that may not have mattered.

A severe drought has forced coyotes and other desert animals to find food where they can. If coyotes have been successful finding food at campgrounds in the past, either from handouts or scavenging, they return for more, with little fear of humans, officials said.

Due to very little rain, the coyotes have been hard-pressed to find the staples of their diet: insects, dates, mesquite beans, flowers and grubs, said Paul Jorgensen, a resource ecologist at the park.

"Coyotes as a predator tend to be more noticeable when we have those droughts," Jorgensen said. "All we can do is encourage the campers to not feed those wild animals."

Rangers offered these safety tips:

Do not feed the animals or coax them into your campsite.

Do not leave food out at night.

Sleep near your campsite.

Do not let small children sleep exposed outside.

Do not walk alone in the evenings.


Well-known member
Sep 5, 2001
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"The coyote's unusual behavior has prompted state Fish and Game officials to order that coyotes matching the description of the one that bit the boy be captured and tested for rabies."

I've called in hundreds of coyotes over the last 20 years and I'd have a really hard time "describing" one vs. another.  "well... it had four legs and two pointy ears... it was kind of tannish brown... oh yeah, and it had teeth... lots of em".  "All units be on alert for four legged, two eared, brownish coyote with lots of teeth..."

That should really narrow it down.
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