Fairfax Co. police officer kills suspected rabid coyote after attack

A Fairfax County, Virginia, police officer shot and killed a suspected rabid coyote on Sunday in the area surrounding Lake Accotink Park.

The officer was part of a search group looking for the animal, after reports on Saturday that a coyote had bitten three people and two dogs.



While on the search Sunday, Fairfax County police said one of its officers was bitten by the coyote and shot the animal to end the attack. The coyote was found dead nearby.

Lt. Daniel Spital of the county’s public affairs bureau provided more information to WTOP on Sunday afternoon. Spital said police received calls from residents who saw the animal biting car tires on Sunday morning near Carrleigh Parkway in Springfield.

The officer was bitten from behind on the leg, turned to face the coyote and fired multiple shots.

In all, four people and two dogs were bitten over the weekend. All are expected to recover.

The coyote will be tested for rabies, which requires removing the animal’s head. Results are due back Monday or Tuesday.

The search for the coyote started after calls about the aggressive animal on Saturday morning around 8. But foot patrols and a helicopter search could not find it and the operation was called off when the sun went down.

Because authorities suspected the animal had rabies, the park was closed Saturday and Sunday. It reopened on Sunday afternoon at 3 p.m.

Spital said he believed it was the first rabid coyote attack in Fairfax County. He described the animal as a younger male.

On Sunday afternoon, Fairfax County police confirmed the coyote’s location in the area of Carrleigh Parkway in Springfield, heading into Lake Accotink Park. Shortly after, the police sent out an update noting the animal had been killed.

WTOP’s Valerie Bonk contributed to this story.

Dan Friedell

Dan Friedell is a digital writer for WTOP. He came to the D.C. area in 2007 to work as digital editor for USATODAY.com, and since then has worked for a number of local and national news organizations.

Ivy Lyons

Ivy Lyons is a digital journalist for WTOP.com. Since 2018, they have worked on Capitol Hill, at NBC News in Washington, and with WJLA in Washington.

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