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Coyote attacks keep children indoors

RYE, N.Y. (AP) — Residents of a New York City suburb were warned Wednesday to keep small children indoors after coyotes attacked and injured two little girls just days apart.

Officers and wildlife experts have been authorized to shoot the coyotes on sight and to kill any that are trapped, Rye Police Chief William Connors said.

‘‘We will work with wildlife experts to see why this is happening and what we can do in the long term, but to be clear, this is a threat to public safety, and we are treating it as such,’’ Connors said.

The girls, ages 3 and 6, ‘‘are doing fine,’’ Mayor Doug Frank said.

Coyotes have been common in some New York City suburbs for more than a decade but normally avoid human interaction. Authorities said they’re not sure what’s contributing to their aggressiveness in Rye.

‘‘This is very unusual behavior,’’ Connors said. ‘‘Wildlife experts tell us that the danger with wild animals like this is when they lose their fear of humans.’’

There was no indication that the animals were rabid, Connors said, although he believed both girls were getting treated for the disease as a precaution.

Officials hope to trap or shoot the coyotes, said Connors, adding that he hoped doing so would ‘‘rekindle that fear of human interaction.’’

The latest attack was Tuesday night, when a 3-year-old girl playing in her backyard — which borders the heavily wooded Rye Nature Center — was jumped from behind by a coyote.

Her playmate, 4-year-old Stephanie Ellis, said, ‘‘I saw the coyote attack her. … She was lying on the ground and the coyote was on top of her.’’ Stephanie cried out for her mother, and she and the victim’s father chased off the animal.

The girl was bitten on her neck and torso, Connors said.

A 6-year-old was mauled Friday night by two coyotes and suffered bites or scratches on her thigh, shoulder, neck, ear and back before her mother could scatter the animals, Connors said.

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