Girl recovers from near fatal coyote attack | TahoeDailyTribune.com
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Girl recovers from near fatal coyote attack

Rob Bhatt

One of the numerous puncture wounds on the face of a young girl attacked early Monday by a coyote in South Lake Tahoe came within a centimeter of the victim’s jugular vein, according to her doctor.

“It could have been a worse outcome or a fatal outcome if her father were not on hand,” said Dr. Brian Romaneschi, the ear, nose and throat specialist who treated the 4-year-old victim, Lauren Bridges.

Romaneschi made the comments Tuesday during a press conference at Barton Memorial Hospital, where Bridges spent the previous evening. The young girl was released from the hospital Tuesday afternoon and left for home in Carmichael, Calif.

A test Tuesday for rabies performed on the brain of the roughly 40-pound, female coyote was inconclusive, the El Dorado County Public Health Laboratory reported. Lab technicians intend to retest the brain today, and samples also will be sent to a state laboratory for further testing.

The victim’s parents, meanwhile, appeared in good spirits following a bizarre incident that almost killed their daughter.

“I feel we are blessed with the injuries she had, because it could have been a lot worse,” said the victim’s mother, Beth Bridges.

Romaneschi praised the young girl for being cooperative with doctors who evaluated her condition in the emergency room following the 9:44 a.m. attack outside a vacation rental on Saddle Road.

The girl was the first one out of the house Monday morning as others followed to go sledding on a hill in the yard. The neighborhood is surrounded by undeveloped wildland near Heavenly Ski Resort.

Within moments, the coyote had knocked Lauren Bridges to the ground and was biting her face, the only portion of her body not covered by ski clothes.

Her father heard screams for helps and ran out to the yard. He pulled the coyote off his daughter as it continued ripping at her face with its teeth.

Steve Bridges on Tuesday said the coyote appeared hungry and continued trying to bite his daughter even after he had pulled it off the young girl.

“The coyote had already tasted her blood and was coming back for her,” he said.

Lauren Bridges did not attend the press conference. She reportedly told her parents that the coyote “was trying to take her to its home to eat her,” according to the victim’s mother.

The girl, who also weighs about 40 pounds, later told her father that she did not see the coyote until after it had knocked her to the ground from behind.

Bridges was not bitten by the coyote, which was killed moments later at the scene by a South Lake Tahoe police officer.

Romaneschi said 16 of the wounds to the girl’s face, neck and scalp needed anywhere between one and four sutures to close.

After an evaluation in the emergency room, the girl was sedated in an operating room, where her wounds were drained and she was treated with antibiotics.

The girl responded favorably to the treatment, and the doctor recommended discharge for Tuesday afternoon.

“I think she’s going to do well from the standpoint of the physical wounds,” the doctor said.

From a emotional standpoint, however, the trauma may remain with her for a long time, Romaneschi added.

Beth Bridges said the family will likely seek counseling for the girl and other family members who witnessed the attack.

Doctors recommend anyone possibly exposed to rabies begin receiving treatment within days of a bite from an infected mammal. Testing on the coyote’s brain is expected to be completed within days.

One El Dorado County health official said in some cases, a patient may begin receiving rabies vaccinations until and unless tests on the mammal responsible for the bite prove negative.

In the past, rabies vaccinations consisted of a painful series of 21 shots to the stomach. Today, rabies vaccinations are less painful, consisting of five shots to the arm over a one-month period accompanied by one, initial gamma globulin vaccination to the buttocks.

Romaneschi speculated that the coyote may have had rabies, because it is not normal for coyotes to attack people.

Robert Gerat, an animal control officer, said rabies is possible, but he said it is uncommon for canines in the Tahoe Basin to carry the disease. Since the county’s Animal Control Department took over animal shelter duties from the Humane Society nearly five years ago, no canines have tested positive for rabies in portions of El Dorado County at Lake Tahoe, Gerat added.

Steve Bridges, meanwhile, said the attack does not change his family’s plans to return for vacations at Lake Tahoe, where the family has come for several years.

“It (the attack) is probably just a one in a million thing,” he said. “I can’t figure out why it attacked her. Hopefully, people will be aware that it can happen.”

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