Nate Edmonds’ first up-close-and-personal encounter with a coyote proved to be much more exciting than he may have wanted it to be.
On Saturday, May 26, 2018, Nate drove out to the Hitchiti Experimental Forest, also known as the Brender-Hitchiti Demonstration Forest. The area is about 5,000 acres of federal land adjacent to Piedmont National Wildlife Refuge in Jones County. Hunting on the area is managed as part of Piedmont NWR.
Nate’s plan was to hike for a while with a friend, and since he was about 30 minutes early, he decided to go walk a bit beforehand. He parked at the head of an established trail and hiked back down into the woods about a quarter mile before he decided to turn back and wait on his friend.
The Hitchiti Nature Trail is a 4-mile track that follows Little Falling Creek to the Ocmulgee River and then loops back.
On his way back, Nate stopped at a bridge that was only 60 yards from the road.
“I saw something moving through the woods,” said Nate. “I saw what looked like a dog, but by the time it finally got out into the trail, I could clearly see it was a coyote.”
Nate said he wasn’t exactly sure what to do at first. He looked at the coyote, and the coyote looked back at him, but neither one of them made a move.
“This isn’t good because I have never seen a coyote that close in daytime,” said Nate. “Well, I’ve never seen a coyote that close period. I’m sure I’ve passed them many times in the woods, but their first inclination is to get away from you. It seemed like this one just found me out.”
Nate started to clap his hands and yell, trying to scare the coyote off so he could get back to his truck. The animal paid no attention to the noise and continued to stand in the way staring back at him. It showed no signs of aggression, but it didn’t move all the same. Nate tried clapping and yelling again but still got no reaction from the coyote.
“I thought, ‘Maybe, just maybe, people have left food on the trail, and this thing associates me with food, but it’s not going to be aggressive about it,’” said Nate. “So I was just going to take a really wide berth and get around this guy. My plan was to never turn my back on it, but I was going to cut off the trail, make a very wide path, and maintain eye contact with it but get around to the other side of it where I could get to the truck.”
Nate began to make his way around the coyote, and he had barely taken two steps before the animal growled, lunged at him and latched onto his boot. Between slipping on the wet ground and trying to kick the animal off his boot, Nate lost his footing and hit the ground.
“It let go of my boot and re-latched onto my shin,” said Nate. “That’s when it actually tore my pants and broke the skin. I was able to kick it off with my right foot though and somehow pin its head between both of my feet. That’s when I was able to get my knife out of my pocket and was able to stab it once between its shoulders and its back.”
After he finished off the coyote, Nate called the Jones County Sheriff’s department, who then got in contact with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service at nearby Piedmont National Wildlife Refuge. They sent someone out to get a report, take pictures and send the coyote off to test for rabies.
A few hours later Nate was at Navicent Health Center in Macon to get his rabies vaccinations just in case the animal turned out rabid. He got his shots about 6 p.m. Saturday.
“I went home and felt fine,” said Nate. “The next day was Sunday — felt fine most of the day. I was able to get up and move around without really even any soreness. Around Sunday night, roughly 24 hours after I had gotten my shot, I started feeling bad. By Monday morning is when I had to come back in (the hospital).”
It turns out he had a bad reaction to the first vaccination, very similar to serum sickness. It caused his liver and kidneys to begin to shut down, resulting in multiple side effects including dehydration. After the hospital rehydrated him, Nate had to remain at the hospital so he could be monitored through the second round of vaccinations.
“The medical follow-up has been much worse than the actual coyote bite itself,” said Nate.
Nate plans on being discharged from the hospital today, May 31, and hopes to hear back from the CDC to find out if the coyote was rabid or not. If it was rabid, he has to continue with two additional rounds of vaccinations, but if not, then he can stop taking them.
UPDATED June 5, 2018: The CDC confirmed the male coyote was rabid. Nate received his third rabies vaccination and will continue to get the full series of shots. Nate has had some elevated levels but nowhere near high enough to go back to the hospital and has actually been back at work this week. “I see the light at the end of the tunnel now,” said Nate.
“You really don’t expect to have an encounter in an area where a lot of people walk,” said Nate. “I will certainly be changing my thoughts on that.”
In Georgia, coyotes are a non-native, invasive species and are impacting animal populations, particularly deer and turkeys. In an effort to raise awareness about the effects of coyotes during the time when deer fawns and turkey poults are being born, GON hosts a Coyote Cull in May and June.