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3 coyotes shot dead in Golden Gate Park after girl bitten

A coyote stands alert among dry, tall grasses. It has a thick, brown and grey fur coat, large pointed ears, and is gazing intently forward.
Three coyotes were shot in killed in Golden Gate Park over the weekend, wildlife officials said. | Source: Damian Dovarganes/AP

Wildlife officials shot and killed three coyotes in Golden Gate Park over the weekend after a 5-year-old girl was bitten in the Botanical Garden.

Capt. Patrick Foy of California’s Department of Fish and Wildlife said the U.S. Department of Agriculture shot the coyotes “over the weekend.”

Foy said officials visited the little girl in the hospital and took DNA samples from where her skin was broken by the coyote’s teeth.

The dead coyotes have also had their DNA samples taken; all samples were then taken to a forensic testing lab in Sacramento, where one of the animals was found to be a match. Foy said that the coyote that bit the girl was found to be an adult coyote.

“We were relieved to see that one of those coyotes had the DNA profile that matched the DNA sample from the little girl’s bite wound,” Foy said.

A rabies test is still pending and will take a few more days to complete, Foy said. The operation in the park has concluded, and no more coyotes will be culled.

The San Francisco Chronicle first reported the incident at the Botanical Gardens. The girl’s mother, Helen Sparrow, told the Chronicle the coyote approached her daughter from behind and bit her at around 11:15 a.m. Friday. Sparrow said her daughter was “mostly fine.”

The Botanical Garden closed Friday due to the attack, but reopened Monday, a spokesperson told The Standard by email.

Janet Kessler, who blogs about the coyote population, said on Instagram that more should have been done by officials in the park to prevent Friday’s incident.

“This is and always has been a coyote denning area. Everyone who works there knows this. Yet there was no denning signage. There was no education,” her post said.

Update: This story has been updated with new information that one of the coyotes shot was responsible for biting the girl, according to officials.

Michael McLaughlin can be reached at